Spam Shelf Life


Spam's shelf life is important to know when you’re building your preparedness pantry. Learn about Spam (a popular canned meat) shelf life and best practices for this favorite Minnesota treat. If you’re interested in pandemic food preparedness, or just the details of best practices for your can of Spam, read on!

A can of Spam Lite to demonstrate Spam Shelf LIfe

An Iconic can of SPAM.

Is Spam a good emergency food?

The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 saw a surge in Spam purchases. In fact, there was a Spam shortage, causing consumers to ask “Why is finding Spam so hard?” The average consumer may not think of Spam as survival food, but now they do. Although Spam has long been a pantry staple, camping meal favorite, and food for military, the whole world is now adding the tiny blue can to their pandemic food list.

Spam comes in a variety of flavors! Visit SPAM.COM to discover your options and find recipes.

Spam by Hormel manufactures Spam canned meat. The fact that it is canned makes the preserved meat a favorite and convenient part of any emergency food list. It only makes sense that people want to know “does Spam go bad?” for Spam as survival food.

Spam shelf life

Smart pantry preppers want to know how long before Spam expires. According to Eat By Date, Spam lasts 2-5 years. The answer to “will Spam last forever?” is no.

If you were wondering “how long before Spam goes bad?” is a different matter. After you open a can of Spam, it lasts 7-10 days in the refrigerator after opening.

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Spam canned meat – will Spam expire?

Every food manufacturer is obligated by law to put expiration dates on their food. Will Spam expire? Let’s say it will become older than the “Spam best before date” on the can. I happened to pick up a can of food that was expired for the photo below. Of course I will not be throwing the can away. Disclaimer: I am not claiming to be a food expert, it is up to you to use common sense when evaluating food safety in your own home. I will refer you to the expertise of others… see the section below of how to tell if canned meat is bad, rotten or spoiled.

The Spam best before date is a legal requirement, but consumers have the freedom to make their best judgement. Food quality and nutrition of canned food slowly decline with age, but the safety of properly stored canned foods can remain for years.

Bottom of SPAM can is where you can find expiration date

Look at the bottom of a can of SPAM to read the expiration date.

How to tell if canned meat is bad, rotten or spoiled

First of all, always practice good hand washing and food safety techniques before handling food.

CDC guidelines say meat is bad, rotten or spoiled if:

  • the container is leaking, bulging, or swollen;
  • the container looks damaged, cracked, or abnormal;
  • the container spurts liquid or foam when opened; or
  • the food is discolored, moldy, or smells bad.

Sight is usually the best way to tell if Spam and other canned meats have gone bad. According to Eat By Date, if the top of the can is rounded and dome shaped instead of flat across, the meat has most likely gone bad and the can should be tossed. Also be cautious with dented cans. If you open the can and anything is brown or black, then do not eat the spam, tuna, canned chicken, or corned beef. Do not use leaky or rusted cans, toss them immediately.

Here is an extreme example of a bulging, leaking can. Iowa State University Extension says that “Generally speaking, commercially canned food will be at good quality for 2-5 years after the best if used by date."

Exploded food can

How to store canned meat to extend its shelf life

Store Spam and other canned meats in the pantry where the temperature is always less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Always discard cans that are dented, rusted or leaking WITHOUT tasting tasting them!

The answer to why Spam is hard to find

Spam is hard to find during a food shortage because people are looking for canned MEAT. Spam by Hormel fills that requirement. Sure, folks can have plenty of canned vegetables, but meat adds a nice variety to a sometimes bland emergency pantry.

Now you know all about Spam shelf life – maybe you want to go and check your cupboards now! 🙂

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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