Incredible Shrinking Survival Cans


While repacking our pantry, I noticed something. Over the past two years, for both our pantry and our survival packs, I’ve been buying Libby’s canned beef thru Amazon (I stopped this year when Costco started carrying its superior canned beef again) — well, at some point during that time Libby’s shrunk their cans.


All cans in the photos are the same 12 oz. Net weight beef, and the difference is so small I can’t see it with the naked eye when holding individual cans side by side, but….



Notice the height difference in the adjacent stacks. Same number of cans, different heights. I knew manufacturers were reducing can sizes (from, say, 12 oz. to 10 oz. at the same price) to save money, a sort of hidden inflation — but I didn’t know they were putting the same portion in smaller cans.

That’s either a fascinating look at the single-minded pursuit of cost-cutting, or I’ve discovered that Libby’s is engaging in massive fraud. Oh well, I’ve moved to Costco’s Kirkland brand anyway.


IKEA Billy bookcase if you were wondering, mounted on steel casters for earthquake.

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7 Responses to Incredible Shrinking Survival Cans

  1. At first I read this as corned beef. Have you notices that it’s virtually disappeared off store shelves? The little 12 oz cans of meat, salt and fat have been vacant for over a year.

  2. Rivrdog says:

    Standard, can your own. Canning is perhaps the least-technical food preservation method, and, pre-supposing sheltering in place, it’s the only one which makes sense.

    BTW, re-visit Spam. It now comes in many varieties, some of which are actually low in fat, and all of which will zip up almost any stew-type recipe. It has 3-4 year dating, and will probably last two years past that in a semi-controlled environment.

    As for preserved meat, I hoard Spam, the little 1# canned hams, and fish, lots of fish. I have smaller amounts of canned corned beef hash, chicken and beef. If I’m hoarding beef, I prefer to use the dried beef in the jars. Very useful afterwards, the jars. The beef can be used slowly without refrigeration over the course of a week. It takes the place of jerky, which has the tendency to do nasty things to my teeth and gums.

  3. Matt G says:

    It may be that the manufacturing process for canning has changed slightly, creating a can with a slightly smaller rolled steel edge, but with the same amount of contents. You’d have to open three or four of each, weigh the food contents and the cans, and average them to tell. There would be strong incentive to make the packaging less bulky, to ship more at less expense. That’s what? About 1/4″ over 8 cans? That’s 1/32 of an inch per can that they’ve reduced, which could easily be accounted for by a change in how they’re canned.

  4. Tam says:

    …and it saves metal!

  5. Jake says:

    It saves weight, too. That small amount of metal doesn’t weigh much per can, but when you’re shipping 10,000 cans at once, it can get to be significant pretty quickly. Reduced weight means less fuel to ship the same amount, which means either increased profits or reduced cost to the consumer (which may also translate to increased profits due to higher sales).

    Tighter, lighter packaging is almost always a win for the manufacturer.

  6. OHIO SHAWN says:

    My father-in-law works for a big metal canning manufacturer (Ball Metal) and they are constantly looking for ways to use less metal, look at what they did to pop cans over the last 20 years, they now use 1/4 the amount of aluminum that they used to and still hold 12 oz of soda, they are so thin you can rip them open very easily.
    As for steel cans, he told me recently they have 2 new ways to “roll the end shut” that saves them metal and still keep the can well sealed. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re just noticing a change to a new can style.

  7. Matt G says:

    At work, we’re drinking a lot more bottled water this year, and the city’s actually paying for it. Having never been much of a bottled water drinker before (darned if it’s not handy having easy pints of rehydration at your fingertips), I notice that they have REALLY cut down on their PET plastic that they make the bottles out of. After each bottle, I basically just wad the bottle up and either put it in my car trash can or in my pocket, because there’s that little material involved in the packaging, anymore.

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