Letter Re: Grandpappy’s Pemmican Recipe – A Native American Indian Survival Food

The following information is freely available on the internet at a variety of web sites including the Wikipedia, the USDA, and the FDA web sites.

First a simple clarification of the USDA information: Dried meat may pose a health risk if: (1) the meat is improperly dried, and (2) the original meat contained harmful microorganisms or the meat is processed in an environment that contains harmful microorganisms.

The original USDA quotation does not mention the addition of sodium nitrite as a solution to this problem. The scientific experiment discussed at this web site evaluated the growth of Salmonella on nitrite-enhanced and nitrite-free hot dogs and found that sodium nitrite only slowed the growth of Salmonella.

Sodium nitrite is not table salt. The legal maximum amount of nitrite is 1 ounce per 100 pounds meat (dry cured). Nitrite significantly delays the development of botulism.

Sodium chloride is table salt. At certain levels, sodium chloride prevents the growth of some types of bacteria that are responsible for meat spoilage. In the proper quantity salt also helps to extend the normal shelf life of many food products.

A brine solution of water and salt, and other optional ingredients, helps to more evenly distribute the salt across the entire surface of the meat. The soaking process then allows the salt water solution to be absorbed into the meat.

Neither sodium nitrite, nor sodium chloride, nor a brine solution will kill all the harmful microorganisms that can adversely impact human health. However in sufficient quantities they will destroy certain microorganisms and significantly limit the growth of other types of microorganisms.

In the old days, after the meat had been soaked in a brine solution of water and salt, the meat was then cured or smoked. The heat generated during this process was the key to the complete successful eradication of the harmful microorganisms in the meat.

Heat will successfully destroy a wide variety of harmful microorganisms. This fact is readily available at a variety of Internet web sites. For example, in beef, venison, and other red meats:

is destroyed at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Listeria monocytogenes is destroyed at a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Staphylococcus aureus is destroyed at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Escherichia coli is destroyed at a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

In my Pemmican Recipe I recommended drying the thin strips of meat in the oven at a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit for at least six hours. At that temperature the above microorganisms cannot survive.

I also recommended the optional addition of salt to the pemmican after it was dried to improve its flavor and to help extend its shelf life.

The reason I am taking the time to share the above information is to help prevent the spread of information that may have been taken out of its original context from the USDA web site and then presented on your web site in a manner that may be somewhat unintentionally misleading. Respectfully, – Grandpappy