Fresh meat does not keep for a long period without being preserved in some way or another  – otherwise it would spoil and become very dangerous to consume due to the growth of undesirable microorganisms such as bacteria, mould, yeast and enzymes. Preserving meat in different ways (and adding non-meat ingredients) helps to add flavour and texture, lowers production costs and may also extend the storage period.

Chilling (refrigeration) preserves meat for a short time period. The reduction in temperature slows down or inhibits the growth of undesirable microorganisms in raw or cooked meat for only a day or so. Examples: fresh meat, leftover cooked meat dishes.

A greater reduction in temperature via freezing slows down or inhibits the growth of undesirable microorganisms in raw or cooked meat for several months. Cured and dried meat is also frozen once vacuum sealed. Examples: frozen pork chops, frozen sausages.

Heat processing destroys undesirable microorganisms. Cooking includes canning (commercial) or pressure canning (at home). Meat may be cooked and then refrigerated or frozen, or if canned, stored in the pantry. Examples: stew, bolognaise.

Meat that has a reduced water content and higher salt content prevents the growth of undesirable microorganisms. Traditionally meat was salted and then dried using the sun or wind but now dried using electric dehydrators. Commercial dried meat products also include chemicals such as sodium nitrate to extend the storage period at room temperature. Home dried meat products are best vacuum sealed and stored in the freezer for long-term periods. Dried meat is eaten as is, or rehydrated for adding to other food dishes.  Examples: jerky, biltong.    CURING Similar to dehydration, meat is mixed with a salt and chemical (i.e. sodium nitrite) to draw out moisture (water), develop flavour and is dried or cooked before being consumed.  Examples: bacon, ham.

Traditionally meat strips were laid over a fire and smoked whilst drying/cooking. Smoked meat has a reduced water content and developed flavour, but must be refrigerated or frozen for long-term storage. Examples: smoked ham, smoked sausages.

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