How Long Does Canned Spam Last?


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Last Updated: October 4, 2021

Want to store cans of SPAM for emergencies? Or maybe you’ve found an old can of SPAM and are wondering if it is safe to eat.  Here’s what you need to know about SPAM shelf life and expiration.

SPAM Expiration Date

SPAM does not have an expiration date.  Instead, it has a “best by” date. This date indicates when SPAM will have likely lost quality, such as losing freshness or flavor.

The best-by date of SPAM is approximately 3 years after the date of manufacturing.  You can find it listed on the can.

Can You Eat Expired SPAM?

So long as the can is not damaged, you can safely eat SPAM long after the best-by date.  However, it really does start to lose quality over time.  Ideally, you should eat the SPAM no more than 2 or 3 years past its best-by date.

Tip: SPAM Lite will retain quality longer than SPAM Classic because it has less fat and thus doesn’t go rancid as quickly.

What Happens If You Eat Very Old SPAM?

There are plenty of cases of people eating very old cans of SPAM or other canned meat.  The meat generally tastes a bit gross but there are no adverse side effects.

I lived in Sarajevo for a while and all of my friends hated canned meat.

The reason?

It was in the humanitarian aid packets that were dropped into the city during the siege.  Some of the cans were leftover from the Vietnam War and 20 years past their best-by date.  Even dogs and cats didn’t want to eat the expired canned meat because it tasted so gross.

The people of Sarajevo hate canned meat so much that they even erected an ironic monument of it.

monument to canned meat in sarajevo
Image credit: “Canned Beef, Sarajevo” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by tm-tm

Is Spam a good emergency food?

SPAM is a great food to have during emergencies because it is easy to store, can be safely eaten for decades, and doesn’t require cooking.  Ideally, you should rotate through the cans of SPAM so you don’t end up with meat so gross-tasting that it becomes inedible.

If you want to prepare for long-term emergencies though, SPAM (like other canned foods) isn’t necessarily the best choice. Canned foods contain a lot of liquid, so take up lots of storage space per amount of calories.  Dry foods are a better option.

Alternatives to Canned Meat

For long-term prepping, a better choice is to stockpile freeze-dried meat.  Kept in air-tight packaging with oxygen absorbers, freeze-dried meat can last for up to 25 years without losing quality.  The downside is that freeze-dried meat is more expensive.

Dry beans and TVP are also good alternatives to canned meat.  They also can last over 25 years when stored properly and are much more affordable than freeze-dried meat.   Read: How to store dry beans long term.

How to Store Canned SPAM

The most important thing when storing SPAM is to keep it cool.  Canned meats contain a lot of fats.  The fats will eventually go rancid and give the meat a gross. Heat makes fat go rancid much faster so keeping the canned SPAM cool will keep the fats fresh longer.  Don’t let the can freeze though as this can cause the seal to break.

You also want to make sure that the can doesn’t get damaged.   If the can rusts or the seal breaks, the contents can become dangerous unsafe to eat.  Keep the can somewhere dry.  Do not put it directly on the floor or against a cement wall as condensation can form.

Store SPAM:

  • In a cool place
  • Keep it dry
  • Do not let it freeze
  • Keep it off concrete or brick walls and floors

Signs that SPAM Is Unsafe to Eat

If you see any of these signs of damage or spoilage, DO NOT TEST THE FOOD. Don’t even give it to your pets.  Throw the can of SPAM away.

  • Rust on the can
  • The seal is broken
  • Food is leaking from the can
  • The can is bulging
  • There are dents or dings on the can
  • The meat looks bubbly, cloudy or moldy
  • Food spurts from the can when you open it

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