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The Prepper Chicken Challenge: 7 Cans, One Winner!

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: May 24, 2021
The Prepper Chicken Challenge:  7 Cans, One Winner!

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A lot of preppers talk about what to put back for hard times. Canned meat is one item that offers a lot of flavor and nutrition.

Not call canned chicken is the same. If you are thinking about putting back some canned meat you want to know what value or you are getting for your money. Chicken is a popular protein and easy to find at the grocery store or a big box store.

Recently Matt and I decided to do some tasty research to find out what canned chicken tastes the best and is the overall best value.

For this test, we took seven different brands of canned chicken. Matt and I tasted each variety and discussed and took notes so that next time you see chicken on the shelf and have a few extra dollars, you can feel confident that you are getting good quality.

Some of the brands we tested are store brands from our area. I encourage you to look at your local grocery or variety store and try their brand. Store brands can be impressive.

So let’s get started with the chicken challenge!

Swanson Premium White Chunk Chicken Breast

This is the large value size chicken. The cans are 12.5 oz rather than the 9.75 oz or 5 oz sizes.

98% Fat-Free

80 calories per serving

280 calories per can

15 grams of protein per serving

390 mg or 17% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

The Swanson’s on first glance has lots of broth. The flavor is mild, and neither Matt nor I noticed any particularly robust flavor. This was the saltiest chicken that we tasted, but it was not overwhelmingly salty when tasted. This chicken is widely available and often on sale. I think this chicken would make a good base for chicken and dumplings or soup due to the high broth content.

Note: This chicken was the only one listed as recommending a serving size of 3 oz. All the others are 2 oz, so the sodium content is about the same as others in this post.

Food Lion 

12.5 oz

98% Fat-Free

60 calories per serving

270 calories per can

11 grams of protein per serving

260 mg or 11% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

This is a common grocery store chain in the Southeastern United States. When we opened the can we noticed that the meat did not have an appetizing texture. You can see from the picture that there is a lot of broth in the can. The texture when you taste this chicken indicates that a lot more rib meat was used compared to the Swanson’s.

Our local town chicken controversy has been in the paper and involved Food Lion. I have to tell this story to you even if it has nothing to do with the chicken review!

The Food Lion near where I live is having actual chicken issues because while the store is in the city limits, the property across the street is not. Despite a saggy fence, the chickens are crossing the road to the Food Lion parking lot and getting on people’s cars, carts, and they may have even roosted over there.

Animal control was out bagging chickens and rehoming them not too long ago. Unfortunately, the person that owns them has purchased geese and turkeys. As someone that currently has 25 geese, I can imagine how that is going to turn out. Goose breeding season is very soon and right before they start to get angry and more aggressive.  It could be a dangerous situation, especially if they nest near the store.

I have been laughing about the town chickens for months honestly. The mayor has actually addressed the issue via social media. I think we are lucky to live near a town that has problems like this. It could be a lot worse. I am sure they will get the situation under control.


10 oz

98% Fat-Free

40 calories per serving

200 calories per can

8 grams of protein per serving

210 mg or 9% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

Matt found this brand at our local Fred’s store. Fred’s is another southeastern chain store, but the Crider name is not their store brand. This chicken is also available at Wal-Mart via the link above. We were impressed with the flavor and the big meaty chunks. This chicken just looks good when you open the can. The salt level is balanced. I didn’t need to have a drink of water. This is always a good sign for me because salty meat is a common thing when it is canned.

Valley Fresh

5 oz can (you can get this chicken in a 10 oz size too)

98% Fat-Free

45 calories per serving

About 115 calories per can

9 grams of protein per serving

210 mg or 9% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

The chunks of meat in the can are very small compared to Swanson and Crider. The broth is very clear. When we tasted the chicken, it was obvious that it was much drier than other meats tested so far. There was no noticeable salt available. I had high hopes for this brand at least partially due to the cost, ingredients list, and other reviews I read. Regarding ingredient quality, Valley Fresh is the winner out of all the brands listed. They do not have any artificial flavors or lots of preservatives. If you are a fan of canned meat that doesn’t have a ten ingredient nutritional label, then look at the Valley Fresh line of chicken products.

For those interested in organic canned chicken, Valley Fresh does offer an organic version but be prepared to pay a lot more per can.

Hormel Chicken Breast In Water

5 oz

98% Fat-Free

45 calories per serving

Around 115 calories per can

9 grams of protein per serving

260 mg or 11% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

This is a brand that a lot of people see every time they go to the store. Hormel makes a lot of food products and a wide variety of canned meats. The chunk size is decent, but the broth is cloudier than other brands. There were more small bits of chicken in this can than in Crider. It was similar to the Food Lion Brand. Matt and I agreed that the Hormel was less tender than the Crider, but the flavor of the Hormel was the most robust of any cans opened so far.

The Hormel chicken contains “natural flavor.” I know from comments on previous food articles that some of you do not like it when companies use terms like this on food labels so I felt I should point it out.

Sweet Sue Chunk White Chicken

10 oz

98% Fat-Free

60 calories per serving

240 calories per can

11 grams of protein per serving

320 mg or 13% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

Oh, Sweet Sue I had such high hopes for you!  I remember buying a whole canned chicken once, and that was interesting to cook with. Sweet Sue is pretty much the only brand out there of whole canned chicken. Matt was disappointed with this one, and so was I! You can see in the picture that there is a large blob of yellow fat right on top despite the fact it is supposed to be 98% fat-free. This makes me suspicious that the label is not exactly honest about the contents. Also, there were many fatty pieces that were within the chunks when bitten. I think Sweet Sue is sneaking in fat for cheap filler. The flavor was bland and unremarkable.

The calorie content per serving and protein content are higher than other brands, but I just get the feeling that the labeling is not exactly honest. A lot of people love this brand so you may still want to give it a try despite the opinion of my husband and me.

Laura Lynn

10 oz

98% Fat-Free

60 calories per serving

300 calories per can

12 grams of protein per serving

230 mg or 10% of the recommended daily value of sodium per serving based on a 2000 calorie diet

Ingles Markets is the major grocery store chain in my area. They have practically everything from socks to about any type of medicine and even essential oils.

Laura Lynn products are normally very good for a store brand. This chicken looked better than any that we opened and tasted. The chunks are big, and I feel like you are getting more meat and less broth with this brand. The texture was not as firm as the Crider or Hormel.

Chicken does not keep as long as canned meats like ham or meat loaves and spreads that have a lot of salt and preservatives

Be sure to check the best buy date before buying any large quantity of canned meat. Sometimes stores, have a good deal on canned goods but they only have a year or so left on the best by date rather than two years or more.

Canned chicken is high in protein, but it has fewer calories per ounce than beef or pork

White meat chicken is the most popular variety, but if you can get white and dark meat, then you should consider it because there are more calories and the price could be less due to the massive popularity of just white meat. I like dark meat just fine. In fact, it has a lot more flavor. An extra ten calories per serving may not sound like a lot, but it adds up, especially if the meat is cheaper per ounce.

Chicken is very easy to find and budget for when creating a prepper pantry

Chicken is something you can pick up a few cans of at a time. I like preps that help others get started without a huge initial monetary investment. $5 spent on a few large cans of chicken means several meals with protein during hard times. Rice and beans with meat is a heck of a lot better than just rice and beans, and you get some salt which is something that you may need more of during a SHTF situation.

If the price is too good to be true, be cautious about buying a lot before tasting but don’t think more expensive means it tastes better either.

I found with this test that you don’t always get what you pay for. The Valley Fresh is more expensive, but the flavor and ratio of broth to meat makes it a poor value. On the other hand, the Crider was on sale for a mere $2.69 for 2-10 oz cans compared to $2.00 for a single can of Valley Fresh. Take time to check out local brands.

What about organic canned chicken?

While I love the idea of organic and try to eat a lot of organic foods, for this article I did not seek out organic options.  One reason for this is that it is very expensive compared to conventional so if you are trying to put back the maximum calories from protein for your money, it is not practical. Another reason is availability. The brands tested in this post are easy to find, and they are often on sale. You can walk into any supermarket, Wal-Mart, Dollar General, or major drug store and find at least a few of the brands and varieties tested in this post.

If you do want organic, there are a few options. You may be able to find a few locally depending on where you live. I have not personally tried any of the organic chicken listed below. I just include this information for those that are interested in an organic option.  As far as price point, the Valley Fresh seems to be the best deal, but you may be able to find the other brands at a lower cost locally or online.

If you have a health food store near you or a co-op, it may be worth it to check them out. I am not sure if national chain health food stores are using their own labels for canned meat, but if they are, it is likely to be a good deal compared to a name brand.

Valley Fresh Organic Chicken Breast

Harvest Creek Organic Canned Chicken 12.5-ounces (Pack of 4)

Wild Planet Organic Roasted Chicken Breast, 5 Ounce (Pack of 12)

Canning your own chicken

Back in 2012 when I was just doing a few articles here and there for magazines, I wrote an article for Backwoods Home on canning your own chicken.  There are a few recipes in that post you may want to take a look at.

If you catch a good deal on whole chickens or specific cuts, then it may be a good idea to can some if you have the time.

I don’t think that Ball jar lids and glass jars are tough enough for very long-term survival situations. They are great for putting back food for a few years but if SHTF I want some cans that can handle being dropped.

Breakage, cracks, and lid seals getting broken for various reasons are all concerns. I recommend that if you do can your own chicken; you also make sure you have some store-bought that are in tougher cans. Remember that although that canning chicken without salt or low salt is possible, more salt helps with shelf life.

Canned Chicken Recipes

So what can you do with canned chicken that is easy in an emergency?

Chicken Salad

Add chicken to mayonnaise, pickles, chopped onion, chives, celery, etc. for a chicken salad. There are a lot of different ways to do this.

Chicken tacos or enchiladas

We used about half of the canned chicken we opened to make a huge 9 x 13 pan and two pie pans of enchiladas. We added some dried black bean flakes, cheese, and veggies. Canned chicken makes an excellent filling for any Mexican food dishes.

Sandwiches and salads

Canned chicken can be eaten as the main ingredient in a sandwich or to add protein to a salad.

Chicken Soup

Canned chicken is excellent for cooking soup in no time. Add a can of chicken and some canned veggies, maybe a few noodles if you have them and you have soup that is a much better value and has more protein than the expensive canned varieties you may be used to buying.

Chicken with cheese and crackers

Add a little mustard, and you really have something. I have no problem making a meal out of meat, cheese, and crackers. Of course, cheese is a luxury item during a survival situation, so just chicken and crackers or bread with any type of sauce is going to taste really good. Mayo packets may be handy for eating simply and not having any dishes.

So which canned chicken is best?

Matt and I agreed that it was a toss-up between Hormel and Crider if taste and texture is your main concern. The determining factor for you may be that the Hormel contains a natural flavor additive. This might be what makes the flavor seem much more robust than the other cans. I think just adding a little spice to the Crider would make it the best.

As far as the overall winner we have to go with Crider. The price, contents, nutritional value, and sodium content combined with a firm yet tender texture are a winning combination.

The Swanson’s canned chicken was pretty good too and I have to say you can get it anywhere so if you catch a sale, you may want to add some to your pantry too.

What is your favorite canned chicken? Do you can your own? Do you have any good recipes to share that would be easy to achieve during an emergency? It would be good to hear about any good store or budget brands especially!

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].

Kitties were lurking. A special thanks to Scout for helping clean up.

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9 Responses to “The Prepper Chicken Challenge: 7 Cans, One Winner!”

  1. We’ve had the Great Value brand chicken, it’s not bad.
    I like the Keystone meats. All that is in any Keystone meat product is the cooked meat, broth, and salt. IF there is fat in it, it is what is left over from the cooking process (the beef does have some fat in it, but it’s fine). There is anywhere from 7-8 servings for a 14.5 ounce can to 14 for a 28 ounce can. The price isn’t bad if you purchase it through the company ($3.67 for the 14.5 oz and $6.25 for the 28 oz can), BUT, they sell their meat by the case (24 cans/case for the 14.5 oz ($88.00) and 12 cans/case ($75.00) for the 28 oz). Walmart sells Keystone meats, but not all of the meats Keystone carries. Most of the time all I find at Walmart is the beef and the chicken…not the turkey, ground beef or pork. 🙁
    I’ve used Keystone meats in soups and chili so far, but I’ve not done casseroles with them yet.

  2. I bought a case of Brookdale canned chicken breast from Aldi and we hate it. Its smelly and slimy. I’ll be canning meat for the first time after the new year.

  3. because of the difference in the serving sizes of these cans, it is difficult to determine relative value. if you divide the calories by the grams of protein, you will find that all of them come up about the same on that count. as chicken is so lean, that should be the case. calculating calories per ounce of meat products or adjusting all serving sizes to be the same makes for a useful comparison.

  4. I wish you had compared the Kirkland brand from Costco. Everyone I know shops at Costco. Also consider that the broth is great in chicken soup!

    • Sorry Linda! I live in western North Carolina so no Costco for us! It is always good to look at store brands where you live. I found my local store brand was quite good. The Kirkland brand from Costco is often mentioned by readers as being good quality. When I lived in Washington State, people would drive for an hour or more to shop at Costco. Thanks for reading!

    • I have not tried Great Value. Wal-Mart is a bit out of the way for my husband and me so we are not in there very often. Store brands are impressive sometimes. I heard that Wal-Mart has improved the quality of some of their meats.

  5. The major problem with canned chicken is that it is 98% fat free, which is great if you are watching your weight but terrible in a survival situation.High fat and high calories need to be the main concern if you are prepping for a disaster. It is 100% true to say you would be much better off buying canned schmalz in place of canned chicken. Classic SPAM, 16 grams of fat, 21.25% fat! Fry it up in butter, get the lard out and make a batch of bicuits to go with it, that is surviving in style.

    • Thanks for the feedback Judge! I will be comparing other meats too so stay tuned! This was the first article in a series on canned meats.

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