Thursday, February 18, 2021

Keystone Canned Beef

Wandering through WalMart last week, killing time while my wife was shopping, I ran across a new-to-me canned meat. Looking at the can, it met most of my requirements for adding to the food storage part of my preps:

  • Made in the USA. I don't trust any foods coming out of Asia and very few from South America. Most of Europe is safe enough, but I try to support local businesses when I can. Food poisoning leaves lasting memories, so I'm a bit paranoid about the sources of my food.
  • Ready to eat. This means fully cooked, so meal prep is simplified and in really harsh times it can be eaten cold -- not having to build a fire for meal preparation is a bonus in my book. Power outages are a problem right now and I don't see that trend going away soon, so having pre-cooked foods on hand makes sense.
  • Usable size. Too small and it's hard to get a meal for two out of a can; too large and you risk wasting some or having it spoil before you can use it. #10 cans are common, but unless you're feeding more than 10 people they can lead to waste. These cans are 28 oz, which is about the same as two pounds of beef after it's been cooked. This company also packages in smaller 14.5 oz cans, which would be a better fit for my family.
  • Shelf-life. As I write this, it's February 2021 and the cans were marked with expiration dates in the middle of 2026. Five years is a fair shelf-life, especially for meats. Kept in a cool, dry pantry I'd expect it to be good for a few years longer than that.
  • Simple. No preservatives other than a touch of salt, no added flavors or colors. The label lists two ingredients: beef and sea salt. They don't even add water to bulk up the meat.
  • Not over-priced. A lot of prepper goods have inflated prices because of the low demand or small market. Under $7.00 for the equivalent of two pounds of ground beef is close to what fresh ground beef costs around here right now.

I bought two cans each of the ground beef and just “beef”, which appears to be chunks of roast. After I got home I started researching the product and found out that they offer chicken, turkey, pork, and several broths and soup bases as well.

Keystone Meats
The company is Keystone Meats, located in Ohio. It started out as a family farm raising cattle, and after WW2 they opened a shop to sell meat from their own cattle. In 1977 they upgraded to USDA standards and set up a small cannery, offering small-batch canned meats to local shops. Business has grown, but they still process meats in small batches, slow-cooking the meats in the cans before sealing them.

Their products are available on Amazon, but the prices are sky high and extremely variable. As much as I like using Amazon links, I can't suggest using them in this case; order directly from the producer instead and you'll save money, even with shipping added.

You will be ordering by the case of 12 large (28 oz) or 24 small (14.5 oz) cans, so shipping may seem to be high until you realize that you're getting 21 pounds of meat delivered. Using the shipping calculator, it worked out to about a dollar a pound for shipping to my address, but the case price was lower than the store price so it was almost the same total price.

The Taste Test
When I mentioned canned meat on the Discord, the first question was “But how does it taste?” I opened one of the cans of ground beef the other night and made spaghetti as a test. The sauce is a mild, not overly spiced favorite of mine, so the flavor of the beef could come through. Here's a picture of the opened can sitting on my dirty stove.

The fat or tallow had separated from the meat and was mostly sitting on top, but it was a solid piece and came off with no problem. There were a few globs along the sides, but none in the meat itself. 

I removed the tallow for a personal reason: if you want extra flavor and calories, mix it into the meat as you cook. There were maybe 3 ounces of liquid broth in the can, enough to keep the meat moist without soaking it or being used to make up weight. 

The meat itself was a firm mass of slightly compressed ground beef in the center of the can. It pulled apart with a fork easily, breaking up into small crumbles suitable for use in sauces and soups. Being pre-cooked I don't think it would do well as a base for meatloaf, and it lacks the fats to give it the cohesion needed to form patties for hamburgers. Recipes are available on the company website, but I like to play with my food sometimes and this is going to be a new challenge. The chunked beef looks like a good base for soups and stews, maybe tacos and wraps as well. I'll keep playing.

I did sample the meat straight from the can. It had no gristle or chewy bits, and the taste was that of unseasoned cooked beef (mild to bland). I couldn't detect any salt, which is a huge difference from most prepper foods, and I did end up adding more to get to my preferred taste.

Simmering in the sauce for an hour or so, the few larger chunks didn't fall apart on their own and had to be broken up by stirring. We eat a protein-heavy diet, so 28 oz of beef went into about 3 quarts of sauce and it looked and tasted fine. There was no metallic taste from the can and no “off” taste from preservatives or colors, so it would be hard for me to tell the difference from ground beef that I had cooked myself and added to the same sauce.

All told, I highly recommend this product for addition to your “deep pantry”. Having animal protein that doesn't require refrigeration and isn't loaded with chemicals is a good way to maintain a healthy diet, and this is something that you probably already know how to cook with.


  1. I've been buying it for years from Walmart, love the stuff. Since we became empty nesters I haven't bought any lately. Living where I do and shopping sales and the "use by" buys I have a hard time rotating but I do make donations to the local food pantry.


The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to