Pemmican: The Ultimate Survival Food?

Pemmican: The Ultimate Survival Food?

Pemmican is the ultimate survival food, because in a serious disaster, SHTF situation, what’s one thing your body starts to burn through like crazy?


Your body needs fat to run, like a fuel, but if you’re constantly depleting it you need to restore that small reserve again. It’s what your body uses in starvation mode as well.

That’s where pemmican comes in. This protein-enriched, vitamin c-packed pemmican recipe helps balance your immune system, need for protein, and need for high volumes of fat in worst-case scenarios.

It’s not the prettiest thing to look at, and it does have a taste barrier to get through, but I’ve already thought of that. This is how to make pemmican, and make it taste absolutely delicious.

What is Pemmican?

Pemmican is an ancient food that consists of game meat, rendered fats, and sometimes berries. It sounds simple, but it’s more powerful than a three-part recipe.

Rendered fat from beef or mutton is called tallow, which is primarily triglycerides. This is different from other fats because it can be stored at room temperature without entering decomposition.

Meats used in pemmican generally consist of elk, bison, beef, and other types of game meat, although it can contain certain fishes like salmon. It’s even been used with duck meat in the past, although you want to stick to game meat if you have the option.

How Long Does it Last?

You would be surprised, but pemmican can last for more time than most canned foods. In fact, we’ve found that pemmican might be the longest-lasting food on the face of the earth, which is pretty fantastic news for anyone who’s getting into prepping.

With enough pemmican, you could sustain yourself. Pemmican, water, and call it a day. You’d have tons of protein, plenty of fat, and while you wouldn’t necessarily get every nutrient your body needs, you could make alternate pemmican recipes to help diversify what you’re eating.

Pemican lasts for a long time because of the tallow layer that runs like a marble pattern throughout it, as well as coating the entire exterior.

This is where the magic happens, but we still need more to ensure pemmican can last for a long time. Pemmican can last for over a century if it’s stored properly, so let’s talk about that.

Two-Year Storage

Pemmican only lasts for a long time if you’re actually smart about how you store it. Keeping it out of the safe temperature range is going to quickly diminish its quality, which can also kill the nutritional compounds.

If this is stored in a well-lit, humid environment above 75°F, you’re destroying its shelf life a lot faster than is necessary. Yes, the whole point of pemmican is to store it “dry” (non-refrigerated or frozen), but there are still ways to do it properly.

Ten-Year Storage

Storing anything for a decade is a good deal. If you can maintain a 65°F to 75°F temperature, control the humidity, and ensure little to no light penetration, you’re easily going to have your pemmican ten years later while maintaining a lot of that nutritional profile.

The ten-year storage guideline is a minimum if you’re following proper storage methods for pemmican because it can go up to about fifty years, give or take. It’s nearly impossible to have perfect control over anything for fifty years, including storage spaces, so there are variables to consider.

Fifty-Year Storage to a Century

You make your pemmican right, you use a good amount of tallow, and you store it in an airtight container with the aforementioned conditions in its storage environment, and you’re basically a prepping deity.

Good quality pemmican can last for fifty years or more, but if you also make that temperature-controlled space a refrigeration unit or stow it in the freezer, you can extend it up to that century-long mark.

The good thing is that in the event of a power outage, pemmican is still going to be good in a failed fridge or freezer because of those rendered fats.

A century and beyond – that’s how long you can store pemmican, but then we get into nutritional composition and it starts to look like that might not be the best idea. Pemmican stored for a long time will lose nutrition, so it’s best to rotate out “old” pemmican for new batches and enjoy it while keeping your stock full.


Pemmican nutrition is a bit of a wildcard, because a lot of that is going to depend on you and how you decide to make it. What meats are you going to use? Will you include berries or stick to just meat and fat?

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Traditional pemmican, made with bison, subsequent mutton fat, and dried, powdered blueberries. We can get a rough estimate of the nutritional content by looking at those ingredients in one-pound servings.

On average, you get about 3,500 calories for a pound of pemmican. Roughly, you have about five servings of pemmican in a single one-pound ball. A serving size is between 3.0 oz and 3.5 oz. For the sake of posterity, we’re going to divulge the nutritional information on an average 3.5 oz serving of pemmican.

  • Calories: 760
  • Protein: 26g
  • Fat: 52g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g (if including berries)

That means in every pound of pemmican, you have about 234g of fat, or about six days worth in a single pound. You have about 117 grams of protein, which is two days’ worth in a single pound.

For carbs, it only matters if you include berries or not, and even then the number is negligible at under 10g of carbs in an entire pound of pemmican.

History of Pemmican

Pemmican dates back to thousands of years ago, although historically, there’s only so much evidence to back it up by tying it to another civilization or people.

Most commonly, pemmican was used by explorers and fur-traders in the 19th century. They would venture out from home for weeks or months at a time, and during this, they didn’t want to take the time to hunt and gather their own food; they had business to attend to.

Instead, they would pull out balls of pemmican, eat their fill, and still have pounds of food for later. This was well-regarded during this time not only for being long-lasting but for being compact and easy to carry on your person.

What Types of Meat to Use

Pemmican specifically calls for a few types of lean meat. These include: bison, elk, deer, moose, and beef.

You may recall that earlier we mentioned salmon could also be used. This is true, but salmon-based pemmican isn’t going to last for nearly as long as elk or bison.

Because you use the rendered fats from the meat that you use, and salmon is mostly lean, you’re not going to get enough fat to really make it into pemmican. At that point, it’s more like fat-coated fish jerky.

How to Make Pemmican

This simple recipe will show you how to make your own pemmican. It’s a bit of an art, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time.

1. Start With 5 lbs of Meat

Beef, bison, elk; you decide. You’re rendering this down to 20% of its current volume. Cut as much fat off the meat as possible; you don’t want to dry the fat.

2. Prep the Meat

Add a bit of light salt to add flavoring and help pull moisture from the meat. On top of that, salted meat doesn’t harbor bacteria and allow for growth.

3. Dry the Meat

Dry meat over an open flame to pull all the moisture out of it. You’ll notice that this reduces to a very dry, brittle jerky-looking consistency. This is desired.

4. Grind Dried Meat

Using a food processor, grind up the dried meat until it’s a fine powder. No big chunks. During this step, you can incorporate dried blueberries as well, so long as they can be powdered and don’t add moisture to the pemmican mix.

5. Melt the Fat

After the fat you rendered down from your meat of choice sits for a while during your prep, it will coagulate. Melt it down, roll your pemmican into balls, and pour the fat over the balls until they’re completely covered.

6. Store

Wrap them in wax paper, plastic bags, or whatever you deem necessary. Make sure you store them properly.

Your Next Disaster Food Staple

Pemmican deserves a spot in your disaster food prep. It’s high in fat, filled with protein and vitamin c, and helps bring back some of that morale when you’re stuck eating hardtack or some other form of disaster food.

Is pemmican the greatest-tasting thing in the world?

Not particularly. Sometimes it can be hard to get through all that rendered fat, but it’s still fantastic, and we know for a fact that some pemmican has lasted up to 80 years in storage. Take that, nighttime survival bucket infomercials.

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