What is Potted Meat?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Potted meat or meat potting began as a way to preserve meat prior to the advent of refrigeration. When people slaughtered their own animals, the amount of meat produced was usually much more than could be eaten before the meat began to rot. People evolved a number of methods for saving this extra meat for later, such as dry curing and smoking. Potting meat was another means of storing food, and that old tradition lives on today in several commercial brands.

Spam® is similar to potted meat.
Spam® is similar to potted meat.

Early potted meat usually involved the meat of one animal only, most commonly pork. Meat might be ground, or not, and then cooked. The fat was saved and poured onto and around the meat, usually in large jars, and the fat would help keep the meat from decomposition. Some cooks added spices to the meat, or made sausage patties from it, so the preserved meat had more flavor. As much meat as possible was pressed into the jars so that they formed a compressed, relatively soft end product, similar to pâté.

Modern potted meat, which may be alternately called a canned meat product or a meat food product, is made by companies like Armour Star® and Libby’s®. Unlike Spam®, which is a comparable product, you may find this meat in rounder patties. Companies may use several different types of meat, rather than sticking to the flesh and fat of one animal. Offal may make up part of the meat; for instance, beef hearts are common in some brands. Beef, chicken, or pork fat can be used as a preserving agent.

The potted meat of today is canned, which extends its shelf life significantly and makes it a good choice for those who don’t mind the different animal parts used (and many do not). It might make a good choice if you want an emergency supply of meat, or if you’re camping. Instead of relying solely on fat for preservation, most brands use extra preservatives like nitrates. Some brands do not use pork, so that their potted meat can be used in Islamic countries, especially by members of the armed forces.

The preferred method for eating potted meat, particularly for those on the go, is to eat it with crackers, which may also have a pretty long shelf life. Meat can simply be scooped out of the can with crackers. You will find recipes for its use in casseroles and a variety of other products. For some people the taste is great, and others are too worried about what potted meat contains. Another consideration is health value.

While the meat is high in protein, delivering about 28 grams of protein per cup (approximately 100 grams), this serving size additionally contains over 700 calories, and amounts of fat, saturated fat and sodium that all exceed the recommended daily intake. Different brands may vary slightly, and naturally a person doesn’t need to eat a cup of the potted meat but can eat less of it. However, it won’t remain safe to consume without refrigeration once the can is opened.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


So is this what Loretta Lynn's dad told her to get for her and her brother in "Coal Miner's Daughter"? Wow what a "treat"!


can you pressure can bolonga or hotdogs to make your own spread?


Has to be on white bread with mustard for me. My wife thinks its gross, but I love it.


Dunno where you're getting 700 calories from. The can I'm eating from (Armour brand) is labeled 160 calories per serving (1 can = 1 serving). It tastes a bit like vienna sausage, and it made with chicken and beef.


It sounds horrible when you read about it, but it's actually not bad. Just don't think about what might be in there lol! Deviled Ham is just spicy ham if you're worried about the misc. bits and pieces.

We keep both potted meat and deviled ham in the emergency kit, it may not be "healthy" but it's food that will still be good when you need it!

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