How Long Does Canned Spam Last? | Build a Stash

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Key Takeaways

  • Canned Spam does not have an expiration date and instead features a “best-by” date, which is normally 3 years after the product was canned and processed.
  • Canned Spam can last for years or even decades in the right storage conditions, but the quality will diminish over time resulting in the canned meat product being less pleasant to eat.
  • You can improve the shelf-life of canned Spam and help it retain its quality by storing it in optimal storage conditions that are dry, cool, dark, and away from direct sunlight.

Spam is a classic and reliable prepper food known for its prolonged shelf life and distinct flavor, but how long does canned Spam actually last?

Canned Spam does not have an expiration date and instead features a “best-by” date, which is normally 3 years after the product was canned and processed. However, canned Spam can last for years or even decades in the right storage conditions, but the quality and flavor will diminish over time.

After extensively researching food storage preparation, I have gathered enough information to determine how long canned spam lasts. In this article, we’ll be covering the actual expiration date of canned Spam and how to improve its shelf-life.

Table of contents


How Long Does Canned Spam Last?

Spam has been a popular canned meat product for the better part of a century, and many people still enjoy eating it to this day. The product really took off after World War II when it was commonly used as a key food source to feed the allied forces.

Spam proved to be very reliable due to its extended shelf-life which could last for years. However, the actual expiration date of Spam is often brought into question. Despite having a date printed on the can, Spam does not actually expire, and merely features a “best-by” date.

For the best-tasting results, you should ideally eat Spam within 3 years after it was manufactured or no later than 3 months after the best-by date. That said, plenty of people have cracked open cans of Spam years after the best-by date and found that it tasted fine.

This implies that while the shelf-life of Spam is quite obscure, it’s safe to say that it will last for a long time. In fact, in the right storage conditions, Spam can last for decades if left unopened and undamaged.

How Long Does Spam Last After Opening?

Despite its impressive shelf-life when it’s canned, Spam goes bad very quickly once you open it. You can expect a shelf-life of just 3 to 5 days for opened canned Spam in your fridge.

This is a meat product at the end of the day, and contamination from air and moisture will result in the product going rancid in just a matter of days.

Classic Spam vs Spam Lite

If you want a can of Spam that will last as long as possible, I recommend opting for Spam Lite over the Classic product. While Classic Spam may be more flavorful, it has a higher fat content and contains ingredients that will cause it to go bad faster.

While Spam Lite does feature a similar best-by date to Classic Spam, the quality of the product will take much longer to deteriorate over time. Many preppers creating long-term stockpiles often choose Spam Lite over Classic due to it being a more secure product for emergency goods.

Is it Safe To Eat Expired Spam?

Yes, expired Spam should be safe to eat for years after the best-by date. You need to ensure that the can is in good condition and that the contents are not contaminated.

Since Spam does not have an expiration date, consumers need to use their best judgment to determine when the meat product has actually gone off. While you should be able to safely consume expired Spam that is past the date on the can, I would recommend eating Spam within 2 to 3 years of the best-by date.

What’s more than likely to happen is that the Spam will still be safe to eat after the best-by-date, but the quality of the product will start to deteriorate. You should always inspect the quality of canned Spam before eating it to confirm that it has not gone off.

Is It Safe To Eat Very Old Spam?

Spam can last for years or even decades, but even this processed meat product has its limits. Eating very old canned Spam that is 5, 10, or 20+ years old may not be the most pleasant experience.

Even if the canned Spam is technically safe to eat, the quality of the meat may deteriorate and you will likely not enjoy your food. Naturally, the older the can of Spam, the worse you can expect it to taste.

A can of Spam that is 5 years old, will likely taste fine and should certainly be safe to eat, provided the can is not damaged. However, for very old cans of Spam that are 10 to 20 years old, you can expect it to taste and smell awful. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, even 10 to 20-year-old Spam should technically be safe to eat.

How To Tell If Spam Has Gone Bad

As mentioned earlier, Spam may take decades to go bad. And even when it does, there is a difference between the product tasting horrible and it legitimately being dangerous to eat.

There are telltale signs when a product like Spam is past its prime and not worth consuming. Many people have opened up cans of Spam that are 20+ years old and found that they did not have the stomach for the product.

When it comes to food safety, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, which is why I recommend keeping an eye out for the following signs to tell if Spam has gone bad.

Damaged Can

The bottom line is if a can of Spam is damaged, you should never eat it. Even if it appears to be in decent condition, you do not want to take any chances eating a meat product that was exposed to contamination.

Any damage that results in an air or moisture leak will compromise the Spam, which can potentially result in food poisoning.

Bad Smell

There are plenty of reports from people opening cans of Spam that are 20 years old to conduct a taste test. The first thing that tends to hit the senses is the bad smell coming from the product.

The odor of old Spam is very off putting and unappetizing. If the can of Spam you are opening smells horrible, it’s probably a good idea to throw it away and not take any chances.

Slimy Texture

Spam naturally has a moist texture, but if you notice that it feels slimy, this could be an indication of it going off.

Meat products like Spam will commonly become slimy on the surface when they are exposed to contamination.

Discolored or Dull Appearance

When you open a fresh can of Spam, the color should be light pink or a soft red. This color will start to become duller in appearance as the product ages.

Bad Taste

As a general rule of thumb, if it does not taste good, don’t eat it. Spam is a pretty yummy canned food and should taste fresh after opening.

Old cans of Spam notoriously taste foul. If the can is very old, you will likely notice the odor before you can actually try it. However, if it tastes bad after you cook it, dispose of it to be on the safe side.

Is Spam Reliable For Long-Term Food Storage?

Spam is very reliable for long-term food storage. This canned meat product was pretty much designed to have a prolonged shelf-life given its historic roots in the Second World War.

Since it was introduced, it has commonly been used in survival scenarios and many peppers rely on it when designing their emergency goods stockpiles. This is a very popular emergency food and you can count on it for years.

The expiration date of Spam is essentially indefinite, and the product will be safe to eat for decades after its best-by date. That said, I would not advise eating decades-old Spam unless you are absolutely desperate and have few other options.

If you want to keep Spam in your stockpile in the long run, I recommend buying a supply and then rotating the stock with what you use at home. Provided that you don’t mind incorporating Spam in your regular meals, you will always have a fresh supply in your food storage by rotating your stock.

Other canned meats such as corned beef, canned chicken, and canned tuna are also great additions to a food storage stockpile if you want some variation in your emergency goods.

How To Store Spam To Improve Its Shelf-Life

One of the best things about storing Spam is that it has an exceptionally long shelf life and is not easily contaminated. You can pretty much store Spam anywhere in your house so long as the area you choose is cool, dry, dark, and away from direct sunlight.

Unopened Spam can last for years even in adverse conditions. However, by taking measures to secure the shelf life of canned Spam you can make it last considerably longer and even help it retain its quality and flavor.

The best way to do this is to store your Spam cans in a reliable location in your home. I would recommend considering the following places to keep your emergency Spam:

  • Pantry
  • Basement
  • Kitchen Cabinets
  • Garage

Spoiled Spam should never be an issue if the storage conditions are stable and the can is left undamaged.