I watched a couple survival shows and started reading a bit about how jerky is made. A big point they get across no matter how they make it is to trim the fat. Fat doesn't dehydrate well enough to keep bacteria from growing, they say. Fat can go rancid, and nobody wants that, they say.

I don't doubt that trimming fat is a good idea, but I still have a few questions.

  1. Why exactly doesn't fat dehydrate as well as muscle? Is it simply because its hydrophobic fats and oils block water from reach the surface, like how we use vaseline to keep our skin from drying?
  2. What exactly are the negative effects of eating rancid fat? Obviously nausea-inducing food is a bad way to stay fed, but when I try to look up the toxicity of rancid fat, the most I get is the broader meaning of "rancid" for all spoiled food or unconvincing naturopathic blogs.
  3. In a situation where your only option of preserving meat is jerkying, where can you find a reliable source of fats to avoid rabbit starvation?
  • 1
    Convert the beef fat to tallow. It keeps for a year without refrigeration, if the container is air-tight. Mar 23, 2020 at 20:07
  • If the container must be airtight that might explain why those survival show episodes didn't bother processing the fat. They're a few days from a rescue crew and a proper meal anyway.
    – BatWannaBe
    Mar 24, 2020 at 0:50
  • 1
    de-hydrate means literally loosing water. There's (mostly) no water in fat.
    – njzk2
    Apr 13, 2020 at 11:43

2 Answers 2


There are different ways of preserving meat and some are low fat while others are high fat. Charcuterie typically has large white blobs of fat in it. So if you're trying to live in a cabin with no outside sources of food for months or a year, learn how to make sausages and bacon in a way that the fat does not go rancid. Heck, pemmican is pounded up jerky mixed with a lot of fat so do that.

If you're making jerky because you like to eat it while you're camping, trim off all the fat and make proper jerky. Rabbit starvation is not going to be an issue over a long weekend.

Eating rancid fat is probably not bad for you, and if you're genuinely facing an issue where eating no fat for a long time is going to cause damage but you have some rancid fat, then I guess you could go for it. But it seems smarter to set things up so that you don't face that choice.


Hydration is to add water, dehydrate the opposite, when you cook a lump of bacon fat do you notice much water bubbling in the pan like you do with a lump of rump beef? Meat has a higher water content

If you cook down rancid fat you most likely cook out the nasties that are in the little amount of water that fat has, I think if it is heated for long enough it could actually purify it somewhat, or neutralise the nasties

Question 3 I don't understand

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