Canned Meats Made With The Highest And Lowest Quality Ingredients

tuna in a ramekin
tuna in a ramekin - Maryia_K/Shutterstock

Canned meat is a sort of humdrum thing, isn't it? Canned tuna, pork, beef, chicken, and the like aren't food items you likely get too picky over, especially when they're grabbed for the sake of convenience. With that said, after careful research, we've discovered that it's often worth it to take a closer look at canned meat ingredient lists since many of the additives found there aren't always the best for your health. Thankfully, there are more than just a few options on most grocery store shelves, and in this post, you'll discover some of the best, and worst, canned meats available on the market.

From high-quality cans of tuna to concerning additives found in canned beef, we've got the information you need to navigate your way through the plethora of canned meats at your local grocer. Stick around as we crack open the details about the canned meats made with the highest and lowest quality ingredients.

Read more: The Best And Worst Grocery Store Fried Chicken

Buy: Keystone All-Natural Beef

keystone canned beef
keystone canned beef - Keystone

There's something so comforting about an ingredients list that features only one or two ingredients. In a world that bombards customers with options chock-full of ingredients that most would struggle to even pronounce, simplicity can certainly be refreshing. With that in mind, we're proud to present to you a canned meat that literally has only two ingredients: salt and beef.

Yep, Keystone All Natural Beef comes in a can, and it's nothing but ... well, beef. It comes priced at just under $6.00 per 14.5-ounce can, which can seem rather expensive, especially when compared to other brands. Still, for a brand offering meat that comes fully cooked, with no water added, no preservatives, and no additives, we say that it's well worth the price. Oh, and might we add that fans truly love Keystone All Natural Beef, claiming it to be tender, fresh, and premium cut. Great news all round.

Avoid: Great Value Roast Beef In Broth

great value canned roast beef
great value canned roast beef - Walmart

There are plenty of delicious, canned roast beef options out there, and while this one might not taste bad per se, it might leave you wanting in terms of unnecessary ingredients. Great Value Roast Beef in Broth contains beef in broth, yes, but it also has a few other ingredients you ought to know about. Caramel coloring is one of them and has been controversially associated with carcinogenic properties, according to the Center for Science in Public Interest. Sodium phosphate, also found in this can, has been noted to potentially increase the risk for mortality, according to Healthline, as the phosphates here are not naturally occurring. Last but not least, Great Value Roast Beef in Broth contains modified food starch, and though there haven't yet been significant risks associated with this ingredient, it's something that doesn't often appear in higher-quality brands.

Of course, eating a can or two of this stuff occasionally won't cause permanent damage, but if it's high-quality canned beef ingredients you're after, you may want to pass on this one.

Buy: Patterson's Butcher Board Beef

butcher board canned beef
butcher board canned beef - Butcher Board

Like Keystone All Natural Beef, Patterson's Butcher Board Beef is another crowd-pleaser in terms of high-quality canned meat ingredients. According to the label, this beef is slow-roasted and packs a ton of flavor. The salt is added only to help accentuate flavors, and any broth left in the can is there from the roasting process. The company advocates for using the broth to make a mean beef gravy and claims you can simply reheat and eat when it comes to these yummy and tender lean cuts of meat.

As with Keystone brand, expect to pay a little more for this grab, at just shy of $11.00 per 28-ounce can. Ingredients include only beef and salt with no water or preservatives added. Most people love this canned treat with only one saying it was a touch too salty and featured smaller pieces than Keystone's beef. Either way, Patterson's Butcher Board Beef is a delicious addition to your pantry and contains ingredients you can feel good about.

Avoid: Great Value Original Luncheon Meat

great value luncheon meat
great value luncheon meat - Walmart

Great Value Original Luncheon Meat seems to take a page from the SPAM playbook, although it contains more concerning ingredients in it. This inexpensive canned meat runs only a couple of bucks at our local Walmart but contains more than the starch, nitrate, and meat found in the original SPAM. Great Value Original Luncheon Meat contains sodium phosphate and sodium erythorbate on top of the already controversial sodium nitrate in the mix.

As already mentioned, the consumption of sodium phosphates can get dicey when it comes to ingesting too much, as doing so may be linked to unsavory health outcomes, including an increase in mortality rates, while also posing a particular threat to those with kidney problems due to salt content. Sodium nitrate is also an ingredient we should try to eliminate from our diets as much as possible due to the potential risk for cancer it poses. Additionally, sodium erythorbate is a refined additive that comes from sugar, and though it isn't associated with significant health risks at this time, it still isn't quite a part of the minimalist ingredient list we like to see from high-quality brands.

Buy: Valley Fresh 100% Natural White And Dark Chicken In Water

valley fresh canned chicken
valley fresh canned chicken - Valley Fresh

Okay, so this isn't the most minimalistic ingredients list when it comes to canned chicken, but the ingredients listed here aren't half bad, especially when compared to other canned meat types. Expect Valley Fresh 100% Natural White and Dark Chicken in Water to contain natural ingredients, just as stated in its title. This chicken is composed of white and dark meat (no mechanically separated meat here), chicken broth, sea salt, tapioca starch, rice starch, and rosemary extract. Unlike many of the other canned varieties, there are no sodium phosphates lurking in the can, nor is there caramel coloring, and thankfully, no traditional preservatives to worry about either. Of course, we understand that rosemary extract works like a preservative in this case, but going the all-natural route earns the company bonus points when it comes to quality as far as we're concerned.

So, while this can of chicken does contain starches unlike a few other brands that feature only meat and salt, Valley Fresh 100% Natural White and Dark Chicken in Water still gets high marks for its all-natural and relatively simplistic ingredients list.

Buy: Great Value Premium Chunk Chicken Breast

great value chicken breast
great value chicken breast - Walmart

Although certain brands featuring canned chicken may be all-natural but still contain various starches, we're at least proud to say that there are some cans of chicken out there that have no starches or additives at all. Great Value Premium Chunk Chicken Breast surprised us by offering only water, chicken, and salt as part of its canned chicken makeup, and because of this, we're walking away are quite pleased. Great Value is Walmart's generic brand, and though the brand doesn't always go additive-free, the fact that it chose to in this instance is impressive.

We will note that the canned chicken here is labeled "premium", and so, it contains better, higher quality ingredients than its Great Value "regular" canned chicken predecessor. You can also expect a slight upcharge when comparing the two Great Value canned chicken buys, but if you're avoiding additives, the upcharge is likely worth it.

All in all, we think the premium version of Great Value canned chicken is definitely a higher quality canned chicken buy.

Avoid: Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast

great value chicken breast
great value chicken breast - Walmart

Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast is a great option if you're looking for something quick and easy, but there are better out there in terms of high-quality ingredients when it comes to canned chicken. Though it's probably not a total deal breaker, there are a few ingredients in the chicken that you won't find in other canned chicken types. For example, Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast contains sodium phosphate which, as you know by now, has its own risks, especially when it comes to certain people groups, like those with kidney-related issues. In addition, this canned chicken contains modified food starch, along with ambiguous "flavorings," which makes us a bit leery as to what types of flavors are imparted that can't be mentioned exclusively.

Again, this isn't to say that Great Value Chunk Chicken Breast is a terrible buy, especially given its affordable price point of $1.18 per 5-ounce can at the time of publication. It's just that additives like the ones mentioned can sometimes feel unnecessary and even a bit annoying in comparison to some of the other higher-quality canned meat grabs and thus, we think the additives used here are worth flagging.

Buy: Dolores Tuna In Water

dolores tuna in water
dolores tuna in water - Dolores

If you're tired of sampling the same ol' same ol' Starkist tuna in a can, we recommend giving Dolores Tuna in Water a go. To be transparent, both Starkist and Dolores Tuna in Water are comparable ingredient-wise, with both featuring light tuna, water, vegetable broth, and salt. Even so, because Starkist in Water is such a popular grab, we figure you already know about it, and if you don't, well ... now you do.

The truth of the matter is that Dolores Tuna in Water tastes just as good and features just as few ingredients, with customers flagging it as one of the best value for money. And speaking of money, expect a Dolores can of tuna to be a bit more per ounce at certain stores when compared to Starkist tuna in a can, but from what we can tell, customers aren't complaining. Thus, we can confidently state that Dolores Tuna in Water is a great buy if you're looking for a minimal ingredient yet high-quality canned tuna.

Avoid: StarKist Chunk Light Tuna In Oil

starkist tuna in vegetable oil
starkist tuna in vegetable oil - StarKist

StarKist Chunk Light Tuna in Oil is a skip, but it's probably not for the reasons you're thinking of. While the ingredients list here is indeed minimal, there is one ingredient you should make special note of. Vegetable oil is typically a blanket term that can reference a variety of oils including soybean, canola oil, and others. And while there are certain vegetable oils out there that don't pose as many risks to health, the one contained in this particular tuna does.

Soybean oil has been shown to cause and exacerbate several health conditions, according to the University of California. Consuming too much of the oil may lead to ill effects including excessive weight gain and diabetes, along with other potential risks. This oil is often used because of its inexpensive price point but eating it on a regular basis in your tuna, or from another food source, isn't ideal.

Buy: Starkist Solid Yellowfin Tuna In Extra Virgin Olive Oil

StarKist evoo
StarKist evoo - StarKist

If you're looking to get full-bodied tuna flavor and nutrients without needing to ingest vegetable oil and the risks that sometimes come with it, give StarKist Solid Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil a go. This tuna comes packed in all the delicious goodness of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, along with a bit of salt. This negates any of the negative effects often associated with soybean oil and other oils as previously mentioned, and would still allow you to enjoy the overall flavor of the tuna in oil without it getting diluted and washed out as with tuna in water varieties.

Of course, tuna this good doesn't come without an elevated price tag, which, in this case, will have you paying more per ounce than you would when purchasing the original StarKist tuna in oil. Whether eating tuna doused with E.V.O.O. instead of vegetable oil is worth it is up to you, but given olive oil's many touted benefits, we think it's worth a try.

Avoid: Libby's Vienna Sausages

libby's vienna sausage
libby's vienna sausage - Libby's

Vienna Sausages are one of those old-school types of snacks that you can eat pretty much anywhere and at any time. But are they good for you? Like so many of the other canned meats on this list, Vienna Sausages contain the usual offenders, like sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate. In addition to these ingredients, you can expect Vienna Sausages to contain mechanically separated chicken, and there isn't really any way to know exactly what's in the meat. According to Tyson Ingredient Solutions, there could be chicken shells, skinless necks, or chicken backs in your meat that is puréed into a slimy texture all before becoming what's known as a delicious Vienna sausage. Yum.

We know Vienna Sausages aren't meant to be a healthy food, and if you aren't eating them daily, you'll likely be fine when it comes to the additives they contain. But rest assured that many of the ingredients you'll find in Vienna Sausages aren't found in other higher-quality canned meats, and so, we think there are better options out there.

Avoid: Armour Original Treet

canned armour treet meat
canned armour treet meat - Armour

Armour Original Treet is another one of those SPAM-like products, only, the ingredients list here has more additives. Armour Original Treet takes things up a notch with the addition of multiple additives that might prove risky to your health.

Some of the ingredients found in Armour Original Treet products include many of the additives already discussed. Among these are caramel coloring, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate, and sodium phosphate. As you can see, there's lots of "sodium" here, which is conversely reflected in the astronomical amount found in each can (4,140 milligrams of sodium — well over 100% of your recommended daily value). In addition, Treet contains soy, wheat, and mechanically separated chicken which, once again, is a paste that may contain chicken pieces you might not eat otherwise.

All in all, while Armour Original Treet might taste good to some, its overall ingredient list contains enough sodium and additives to make it unworthy of a top-tier canned meat designation.

Avoid: Armour Potted Meat

armour potted meat can
armour potted meat can - Armour

Armour brand once again delivers canned meat that contains ingredients that aren't what we'd classify as high quality. This time, dextrose makes an appearance in Armour Potted Meat, which has been associated with depression and various skin conditions, according to WebMD. On top of this, some individuals who are particularly sensitive to dextrose may notice other unwanted side effects after consuming large amounts of the additive, including shortness of breath, vomiting, and a more frequent urge to pee.

Aside from dextrose, you can also expect to see sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrate, and that infamous mechanically separated chicken to show up in your Armour Potted Meat as well. As we've noted, many other canned meat options forgo the use of these ingredients, and instead, opt for a more minimalistic ingredients list. For that reason, this canned meat, though popular, goes down as one of the lower-quality canned grabs when it comes to ingredients.

Avoid: SPAM

spam in a can
spam in a can - SPAM

SPAM may be a classic food commodity, but it isn't the best we've found in terms of canned meat ingredients. Granted, this salted pork fan-favorite doesn't contain very many ingredients in the first place, and the concerning ingredients it does contain aren't that fretful. Still, we wouldn't consider SPAM the crème de la crème of the canned meat game because, unlike other canned meats in its category, there are a couple of ingredients we'd rather not see.

For example, sodium nitrate can be found in SPAM and is often used in other cured meats. These meats benefit from sodium nitrate because it helps them retain color and it also helps with preservation. Of course, sodium nitrate is associated with negative health effects and is often rumored to be connected to certain cancer risks. Indeed, there is some evidence that suggests that excessive consumption of sodium nitrate can lead to colorectal cancer and other diseases, such as leukemia and heart disease, according to Healthline.

Lastly, like with a few other canned meats mentioned here, SPAM contains modified starches, which aren't exactly appealing, though we're sure they serve a purpose. All in all, SPAM isn't the cleanest, most high-quality canned meat you can get your hands on, and there are much better options out there.


spam on a plate
spam on a plate - Difydave/Getty Images

Canned meats with the highest and lowest ingredients were decided upon by analysis of ingredients per brand and type. We took a close look at each ingredient and did our research on most additives mentioned. Canned meats featured in this post that contained little to no additives were often deemed high quality, while those with harmful additives were alotted as low quality. In addition, canned meats that were steeped in liquids like soybean oil may have earned lower quality ratings than those doused with healthier alternatives, such as extra virgin olive oil. At the end of the day, it's totally up to you as to which canned meat you choose to consume -- we're just here to help you make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to picking high-quality canned meat.

Read the original article on Mashed