Root cellars: the earth’s refrigerator. Every prepper worth their pickling salt will have a plan for storing food in a cellar or basement. Root cellars are underground rooms that allow us to utilize the soil’s natural cooling and insulating properties, making them perfect for storing supplies in times of trouble.
You can store meat in a root cellar. However, raw meat will not last as long as most other stored foods. Raw meat will last a few weeks in a root cellar with proper packaging. Consider alternative methods of preservation to prolong the storage life of meat.
Read on to learn more about preserving meat for storage and the optimal storage conditions for meat in a root cellar.
Storing Raw Meat in a Root Cellar
Can you store raw meat in a root cellar? Yes. However, the meat will not last nearly as long as other goods and foodstuffs in a root cellar, even with the correct packaging precautions.
Storing meat in a cellar means keeping it as chilled as humanly possible. Here are some tips for keeping your meat cool in a root cellar:
- Seal off your cellar to prevent bacteria and moisture from entering the space.
- Keep the cellar at a constant temperature.
- Ensure that your meats are wrapped securely (e.g., using cling wrap) to keep pests, bacteria, and dirt off of them.
Meats need to be stored at a cooler temperature than vegetables and canned goods, so they should be kept as low in the room or as close to the floor as possible, as this is the coolest place in a root cellar.
This, however, is another reason it is so important to keep doors and cracks sealed—it’s essential to keep dirt and bacteria off your meat in any way possible.
You may want to invest in a device that measures the temperature and moisture of an area. I recommend this OXV Thermo-Hygrometer Digital Temperature Humidity Meter from Amazon.com.
How Long Will Meat Last in a Root Cellar?
Bacteria will inevitably overtake meat stored outside of a freezer. This is because freezing meat slows down the growth of bacteria. Still, freezing does not get rid of bacteria altogether. In turn, meat thawed or kept outside a freezer risks spoiling far quicker due to the bacterial growth rate.
Raw meat will last a couple of weeks in a root cellar, provided it is properly packaged. Drastic temperature fluctuations and compromised packaging will shorten the storage life of your meat to 3 to 5 days.
We all know survivalists and preppers are in it for the long haul, so risking inedible food 3 to 5 days after the apocalypse is subpar.
I don’t recommend storing raw meats in root cellars at all. Instead, I suggest you store dried, preserved, or canned meats.
To safely handle and consume meat, please read the National Library of Medicine paper regarding pathogens in meat, what they do, and how to avoid them.
Methods of Preservation for Storing Meat
There are a few different methods you can use to preserve meat for storage:
There are all great options if you’re hoping to prolong the storage life of your meat. Below I will outline each method and its unique characteristics.
Canning uses heat processing to kill microorganisms and vacuum sealing to protect against bacteria.
This is your best bet for storing the maximum amount of food with the least effort and risk of the food becoming contaminated or going bad. Canned meat can last years—or even decades—if stored properly.
Canned foods aren’t entirely foolproof, as botulism can occur. Botulism is when food becomes infected with a deadly form of food poisoning. This concern could arise if cans are stored in improper conditions (e.g., warm or damp areas). However, botulism is very rare in canned goods.
Keep your food in a cool, dark, dry part of your cellar (with a temperature below 85 degrees Fahrenheit), and you should be in the clear.
Once you have opened a can, we don’t recommend storing leftovers for later. If you must, take the steps mentioned above concerning storing raw meat.
Picking refers to immersing meat in brine for long-term storage. This can be done using a sugar, vinegar, or salt solution.
This solution kills any bacteria that may grow on the meat (even after exposing the meat to air) and replaces the moisture in the meat. To learn more about how to pickle meat, check out this Ask A Prepper recipe.
Pickled meat in jars can last for years. However, most sources confirm pickling doesn’t guarantee the same decades-long shelf-life as canning.
Pickled meat will likely last up to 2 years without any refrigeration. I recommend using this method—especially for some variation in flavor—for your prepping. Plus, pickling is valuable if you plan to hunt and bring raw meat back to your bunker.
Salt dries food using osmosis, thus killing bacteria by dehydrating their cells. This relatively simple process is used to make jerky, which we enjoy today for the unique flavors it produces.
Our ancestors used this process to store and preserve food for centuries before we invented refrigeration, so there’s got to be some merit.
Cured meats will last longer in their “whole” form. That is to say, thin slices or strips will deteriorate much faster because the surface area is greater and more susceptible to oxygen and spoilage.
Cold-cured meat can last years without modern refrigeration. Again, keep it wrapped up once it is cured and keep it in the dark, cool area of your root cellar.
Storing raw meat is not the best bet for the average survivalist, even if you do everything right and maintain optimal conditions in your root cellar. But that doesn’t mean you can’t store meat at all.
Canning, pickling, and curing are super effective methods of storing meat long-term while avoiding spoiling and harmful bacteria that could cause serious illness.
Keep your root cellar cool and sealed off, and you won’t have issues storing properly preserved meat there.