The Ultimate Survival Food: Making Pemmican with Game Meat (2024)

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Whether prepping your bug-out bag with non-perishable snacks or finding an easy way to preserve your game meat, making pemmican is a great way to use any extra game meat.

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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Pemmican is a densely packed mixture of rendered fat and protein with an incredibly long shelf-life. Making pemmican with game meat is a simple and fun family activity.

Learn about the history of pemmican, some common pemmican recipes, and why it's regaining popularity throughout North America and Europe.

How to Make Pemmican With Game Meat

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⬇️Want the printable recipe card? It's at the bottom of this post.⬇️

What is Pemmican?

Pemmican is a mixture of meat and animal fat, usually made from elk, bison, caribou, deer, or moose. Similar to jerky, you must use dried meat with the fat removed. However, remember to keep the fat.

When making pemmican, you'll need to render it down and add the rendered fat back into the meat mixture.

Depending on your preferences, try adding dried berries or unsalted nuts to your pemmican recipe. And check out the site Alderleaf Wilderness College for some great pemmican recipes for inspiration.

However, take note. Adding extra ingredients to the meat and fat will reduce pemmican's shelf life.

Wild game meat isn't the only wild food to dry and keep in your survival stash or prepper pantry.

Learn how to make smoked fish or dried fish at home and preserve your catch for the future. Or learn how to can fresh fish to add some variety to your off-grid food supply.

Where Pemmican Comes From

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The word "pemmican" comes from the Cree word "pimikan." And according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Cree word means "manufactured grease."

Traditionally made from dried buffalo meat that was then pounded into powder, pemmican has been a staple food for many native Americans and indigenous tribes over centuries.

The high-energy food was adopted by the European fur traders and explorers as they spread across North America.

The Perfect Survival Food

Facing harsh winters and unforgiving land, pemmican was an important food well into the 19th century for native tribes, the Métis people and even the US army.

In an age before drive-thru fast food joints and convenience stores, carrying meals when traveling by foot or canoe through the great outdoors wasn't easy.

So pemmican, a nutritious food made with dry ingredients, lightweight and easy to carry in thin strips was the perfect food for long trips. It is said to have prevented the starvation of many. In fact, arctic explorer Robert Peary mentioned packing pemmican with dry berries in his 1917 book, The Secrets of Polar Travels.

Because of its density and long shelf-life, pemmican, like hardtack, (aka survival bread), was easy to transport in canoes or in a pack over huge distances.

So, as a result, it was used for hundreds of years to supply crews on long journeys across the globe. This included expeditions to the North Pole and through the heart of Africa.

Note: If your kids study pioneers, homesteading, or westward expansion as part of their homeschool, why not learn how to make pemmican recipes from game meat?

What Was the Pemmican War?

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Pemmican was critical to the survival of North America's early explorers and traders. In fact, it was so important that there was an entire war fought over it. The Pemmican War (1812 - 1821) was a series of skirmishes and battles between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company.

The main issue was regarding pemmican exports and trade, coming to a head at the Battle of Seven Oaks and the burning of Fort Douglas and Fort Gibraltar. By 1821, the two rival companies merged, swiftly ending the almost decade-long confrontation.

Why is Pemmican Still Popular?

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With refrigeration and a variety of other preservation methods available today, you might wonder: do people still know how to make pemmican? Yes! It's actually experiencing a resurgence in popularity as preppers and homesteaders embrace the traditional way of living. Or prepare for a survival situation.

Now, more than ever, more and more people worry about food shortages and their family's food supply. To secure their food supply, people have a renewed interest in pursuing survival and homesteading skills.

They're raising rabbits for meat, keeping chickens, and growing gardens to feed a family

They're foraging and preserving food through pickling, smoking meats, or fermenting foods.

And they're considering the shelf-life of the food items used to stock their pantry.

Tip: Add "making pemmican" to your Winter Homestead Checklist. That way you'll always have access to a supply.

Why Pemmican Appeals to Preppers

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Making pemmican with game meat gives you a reason to use up those less desirable cuts of meat. You know, the ones that might otherwise go to waste. And it only takes minimal preparation. So little that a basic pemmican recipe can be made in the woods over a fire.

Plus, like most dried meat, the shelf life of pemmican can be anywhere from a few years to a few decades. That's why pemmican has become more popular among preppers as the ultimate survival food.

Related: How to Store Your Harvest Without a Root Cellar

Storing Pemmican

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Squares are better for storage and maximize space more efficiently if you’re going to be carrying them in a pack. As with any dried meat or preserved food, make sure you store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place for long periods of time.

When you're moving, eat pemmican in small pieces with dried fruit. It's fine at room temperature.

Pemmican:The Ultimate Survival Food Video

It’s no wonder pemmican still holds a place near the top of the list of ultimate survival foods. Making pemmican with game meat was how indigenous tribes and explorers traveled long distances. They moved across the continent without running out of food.

Preparing and storing pemmican is easy.Plus, it's a very useful bushcraft skill to learn. After hunting season this fall, try making some with the family and store it in your cellar for years to come.

Pemmican FAQs

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Got questions about pemmican? We have answers.

What is pemmican?

Pemmican is a traditional Native American food that combines lean, dried meat with rendered fat and sometimes berries. It's a high-energy food known for its nutrient density and long shelf life, making it ideal for long-term storage and survival situations.

How long does pemmican last?

Properly made and stored pemmican can last for several years without refrigeration. The key to its longevity is the removal of moisture and the use of a rendered fat mixture, which acts as a natural preservative.

Is pemmican safe for everyone to eat?

Pemmican is generally safe for most people, but if you have dietary restrictions or food allergies, particularly to meat or fats, consult a healthcare provider before consuming. It's also high in calories, so consume in moderation.

Can I add spices or herbs to my pemmican?

While traditional pemmican is simple, you can add spices and herbs for flavor. However, be cautious as some ingredients may reduce the shelf life. Stick to dry spices over fresh to maintain longevity.

This post is part of the Homestead in Your Homeschool Series.

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How to Make Pemmican

Yield: Varies

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Additional Time: 1 day

Total Time: 1 day 45 minutes

Use this classic pemmican recipe to make your own homemade pemmican. You can add additional flavors as desired.


  • When preparing pemmican, try to use the leanest cuts of meat possible. Large game animals such as deer, elk, moose, or bison are preferable. However, use beef if necessary.
  • If you have any fat left from harvesting the animal, use that. If not, talk to your local butcher and buy some rendered beef or pork fat.
  • Rendered beef or pork fat, or fat from the animal. Use a 1 to 1 ratio of fat to dried meat by weight.


  1. Begin by slicing the meat thin, about ¼ - ⅓ of an inch thick.
  2. Remove any fat left on the meat, and then dry it by hanging over a fire, in the sun, in a dehydrator, or in an oven. Hanging the strips on thin branches or racks a few feet above a fire is the traditional way, but can take over 12 hours to completely dry.
  3. Once fully dried out, pulverize the meat into a powder. With modern conveniences, you can use a food processor or grinder to mill it into a fine powder. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle or simply crush it repeatedly between stones. Although more labor-intensive, this step can be completed by hand. And if you are adding berries to your recipe, they need to be dried and pulverized as well.
  4. Prepare the fat separately by rendering it in a pot at a low temperature until it stops bubbling.
  5. Drain it through a strainer to remove any solids.
  6. Place your powdered meat and any extras you’ve added into a mixing bowl or casserole dish, and very slowly add the rendered fat. Begin with a 1 to 1 ratio of fat to meat. As you pour, the powder will absorb the fat, so make sure you evenly spread it throughout the mixture and it does not become too runny
  7. Once the fat absorbs into the powder, let the mixture sit for a few hours as it cools down and firms up. You can form the mixture into squares, or balls for storage.
Nutrition Information

Yield 12 Serving Size 2.5 oz
Amount Per Serving Calories 115Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 44mgSodium 32mgCarbohydrates 0gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 14g

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The Ultimate Survival Food: Making Pemmican with Game Meat (2024)


What is the ratio of meat to fat in pemmican? ›

The pânsâwân was then spread across a tanned animal hide pinned to the ground, where it was beaten with flails or ground between two large stones till it turned into very small pieces, almost powder-like in its consistency. The pounded meat was mixed with melted fat in an approximate 1:1 ratio by weight.

Can you survive off of pemmican? ›

You don't want to survive on pemmican alone. Strenuous backpacking will lead to daily glycogen depletion, best re- plenished with carbohydrates. For low to moderate exertion of long duration, diets high in fat work relatively well, but require a prior period of adaptation.

What cut of meat is best for pemmican? ›

Suet is the fat around the kidneys of the cow and works best for pemmican because it stays hard at room temperature and will help to preserve your meat.

How to make pemmican survival food? ›

  1. Make meat and fruit powders through dehydration and smoking process. ...
  2. Use a food processor to blend powders to a flour consistency.
  3. Render beef or bear fat (suet is preferred) – slowly heat trimmed fat until it turns to a clear liquid, strain off liquid. ...
  4. Mix your dry powders and salt.
Aug 28, 2022

How much pemmican do you need to survive? ›

40 day winter: 12800 pemmican. 50 day winter: 16000 pemmican. These are near-minimums, though, and you should shoot for higher. (I say near because a colonist can survive for five days without food.)

What is the 80 20 meat ratio? ›

The Meat-to-Fat Ratio of Ground Meat

You'll usually see some numbers on a package of ground meat at the grocery store, like 80/20 or 90/10. Those numbers refer to the ratio of lean meat to fat. So when you see 80/20, that means it's 80 percent lean meat and 20 percent fat.

Is pemmican bad for you? ›

Both pemmican and jerky are high in protein, making them excellent choices for a nutritious snack. Pemmican, with its combination of dried meat and fat, provides a calorie-dense option.

Can you get food poisoning from pemmican? ›

It is imperative that you prepare the venison, beef, elk, caribou or moose with a brine or dry preservative to prevent the possibility food poisoning since you will be drying the meat at a low temperature and probably using an electrical dehydrator. Do not use pork for pemmican!

Does pemmican need to be refrigerated? ›

Pimm's does not need to be refrigerated, but it can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life. Unopened Pimm's can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 years.

Can you put spices in pemmican? ›

Pemmican consists of two fundamental ingredients — dried meat and tallow — and is used as a highly nutritious, on-the-go food staple. Spices can be and usually are added, while dried berries are sometimes a feature.

Can I use lard in pemmican? ›

Add melted lard slowly while mixing. Two tablespoons of fat are used for each 4-5 ounces of meat plus 1/3 cup of fruit. Fat changes the consistency and makes it appear semi-moist instead of dry and improves the flavor and texture. Store in paper bags.

Can bacon grease be used for pemmican? ›

That's entirely up to you. I used the fact from 3 pieces of center cut bacon, used some stored bacon fat and then added coconut oil until I had about a half a cup of fat. If you have some bacon grease stored away, this is the perfect time to put it to use. The cooked pieces of bacon were used in the recipe.

What spices are best for pemmican? ›

This will make the pemmican with the best shelf life. 1–Place raw ground meat in a mixing bowl. Mix in your favorite spices like: black pepper, anise, rosemary, lavender.

How to make pemmican in the wilderness? ›

Pound the meat into a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture. Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until liquid. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey.

How to make real pemmican? ›

7 Steps to Follow for a Pemmican Recipe
  1. Choose your meat and berries. Mix and match different types of fruits and berries when you make your own pemmican. ...
  2. Dehydrate the ingredients. ...
  3. Grind the meat and berries. ...
  4. Strain out the fat. ...
  5. Mix the ingredients together. ...
  6. Cool the pemmican. ...
  7. Store the pemmican.
Apr 18, 2022

What is the best fat to meat ratio? ›

And on this, experts concur — the most popular and flavorful ratio of lean to fat comes in at 80/20. Paul Vaccari, owner of New York City's Piccinini Brothers, which sells to restaurants as well as individuals, says his most popular mixture for hamburgers is an 80/20 ground chuck.

What is meat to fat ratio? ›

It turns out it's all about the fat. And on this, experts concur — the most popular and flavorful ratio of lean to fat comes in at 80/20. Paul Vaccari, owner of New York City's Piccinini Brothers, which sells to restaurants as well as individuals, says his most popular mixture for hamburgers is an 80/20 ground chuck.

What is the best beef to fat ratio? ›

When shopping for ground beef, the most important consideration is usually the percentage of fat; most of our recipes call for ground beef that's 85 percent lean (15 percent fat) for the best balance of beefy flavor and tender texture without too much greasiness.

What is the lean meat to fat ratio? ›

To answer your question literally, the best ratio is 20/80 although in the supermarkets they give the ratio as meat to fat in which case it's 80/20. If it's any more lean than that the chop meat gets too dry and loses its taste. It depends on what you're going to make with it.


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