Pemmican, Oh Pemmican – How Do I Love Thee?


I don’t like cooking. I don’t like thinking about food either. I love eating but whipping something up is a bit more of a chore for me than seems to be for others. Food preparation is so beyond annoying to me that I will eat the exact same things day after day to avoid having to think about food.

Common nutritional wisdom says we should eat a great variety of foods for vibrant health, but variety just isn’t the spice of my life so I usually go for a bar of pemmican. (By the way there was an article on Seth’s blog this week about rotating foods for weight loss which I found notable. He brought up set points which I hadn’t heard of before and I thought that was interesting so I’m telling you about it.) Pemmican is a Native American, high-fat snack that was used as travel food once upon a time before the bloody invasion of these lands.

A little Pemmican History

The word pemmican (pimîhkâ) comes from the Cree tribe and is derived from pimi – fat or grease. It is a simple food with 2, maybe 3 ingredients. Fat would have been rendered from the back cavity of a large game animal like buffalo or elk. The muscle meat would have been sliced, laid out to dry, and ground to a powder to make beef jerky. Then, the rendered fat (tallow) and the jerky would be mixed together in a rawhide bag to make pemmican. This high fat snack was carried on long journeys and even shared with European settlers and explorers.

I’m Native American!

I always wished I lived when Native Americans thrived. Really. Just look at the picture above (courtesy Wikimedia Commons). What freedom! The simplicity of life and food, the respect for land and life. I know times would have been hard but I’d trade all our modern woes to pack up and run from enemies, to go hungry sometimes, to escape inclement weather. I actually am a little bit Native American – 1/64 Choctaw – not much, and definitely not enough to transport me back 6 or 7 generations. But I can daydream every afternoon when I eat my pemmican…

Pemmican, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

1. You have three ingredients – dried beef, tallow, and sea salt
2. You are the Paleo version of a candy bar – creamy and almost naughty
3. You don’t give me a stomach ache like everything else that comes in packages.
4. You’re not very popular so I get to eat all of you
5. You give me freedom from making lunch
6. You have some iron
7. You’ provide omega-3s
8. My daughter likes you (with a little honey on top) and that’s huge
9. You’re high in fat and I really really like fat (If you’re still not sure about eating high fat, check out how the Native Americans did it)
10. You make me feel happy

To make pemmican or to buy it

That all depends on how much you loathe the kichen I guess. The recipe is simple. I described the steps above. (I imagine it will work fine without a rawhide bag, though if you can get your hands on one, let me know and I just might try it myself.) I haven’t actually gone to the trouble. I do have a couple pounds of tallow from US Wellness in my freezer and I often make beef jerky (my recipe is here) but I don’t like cooking and I have found an amazing source of pemmican from US Wellness made from grassfed cows, so that’s what I eat, most days, for lunch.

What’s it like?

When I received my first order, I ate it cautiously. The flavor is distinct, not like anything I’d ever tasted. It was interesting, I thought, and filling so it will do. But by the third bar (not at the same time!) I was hooked. The creamy texture, the simple flavor, the ease – I was officially addicted.

US Wellness sells a few different varieties – one with a minuscule amount of cherries and honey, one plain, and one with no salt. I don’t care for the one with cherries. I think it masks that decadent flavor of the plain one. But I understand the one with cherries is the most popular so I may just be a little weird.

I’m not trying to sell you on US Wellness for any reason other than that they’re awesome and that they make the best (and maybe the only) pemmican around. I eat it every day and just thought you’d like to know about it. If you buy from them, I do get a tiny cut and that’s an added bonus for me, kind of like a donation from you, but really, that’s not the point. The point is I am enamored of US Wellness pemmican and think that you just might be too.

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  1. Awe that’s sad to hear. I love it so much. I prefer it right in between. I don’t like it at all straight out of the freezer but instead right out of the fridge. I suppose you’d have to have a pretty good taste for fat to appreciate pemmican. I eat an EXTREMELY high fat diet.

    • Honestly, it’s the texture that’s a problem for me. I eat plenty of fat (my favorite thing for “breakfast” is a slice of grassfed salted butter, chilled. And I can use tallow in cooking, without being offended by the flavor. It’s just that the pemmican is kinda chalky/grainy. I haven’t given it to my kids yet. On the other hand, all these comments below from people worried about filling a $75 order, just reassure them that everything from uswellness is magnificent, and even if you just get a bunch of the cheap ground beef, it’s totally worth it. Or the turkey jerky, which tastes exactly like dried thanksiving turkey. I’m so converted to getting meat from them.

  2. Hello, I’m Alli I recently joined your meetup group. I want to get on the pemmican train too but us wellness has a $75 minimum order!? Is it possible to make a smaller order? Or, is there anywhere else you recommend? I don’t want to have to make it myself

    • Hi Alli,

      They don’t allow smaller orders and I don’t personally know of anywhere else to buy it. It was in my search for pemmican that I discovered US Wellness. Are you in Denver? We could share a delivery.

      • They do allow smaller orders. You just have to call them and place the order by phone.

        Done and done.

        I love their pemmican and eat it all the time.

        Big Daddy T

    • Hi Alli,

      They don’t allow smaller orders and I don’t personally know of anywhere else to buy it. It was in my search for pemmican that I discovered US Wellness. I suggest sharing a delivery with someone.

    • You might try making your own. The texture will be different than what you can buy at US Wellness and it will store (if you are so inclined) much longer without the need for refrigeration.

    • Call their office and tell them you want to try a sample of the pemmican before committing $75. They should waive the minimum fee for you.

  3. I recently tried the pemmican from u.s.wellness, and although I’ve completely loved everything else I’ve gotten from them, the pemmican kinda makes me gag. I’ve tried it warm and smooshy, cold and stiff, it just doesn’t go down, and that makes me sad. But I sure love their liverwurst!

  4. I would really love to try Pemmican, new to the primal lifestyle. Don’t want to spend $75 minimum at us wellness. Any other ideas? Can’t seem to find anywhere else.

    • Oops, sorry, didn’t mean to comment on the same thing as Alli. Thanks for the reply. I’ll just need to make a meat order. Thanks.

  5. I haven’t got any other ideas for you. I’ve never found pemmican anywhere else. I buy a lot of things from USWellness when I make an order. I stock up on pemmican, get a bunch of bones for broth, and some grass fed meat. Maybe you know someone who would like to share an order with you so you don’t have to spend as much at one time?

  6. Unfortunately, I live in Ireland now(Well it’s not unfortunate for any other reason than this :D) so I am going to have to have a go at making it myself. I thought I might get some when I went home to visit, but the minimum order just doesn’t make it worth it for me. Or is it worth it? :D

  7. Believe it or not I spend $100 on just pemmican each time I make an order! I plan to take 5 or so lbs with me when I go back to Colombia this year. (They eat like crap over there) So, yeah, I think it’s worth it, but I’m a little biased. I eat one every day. :)

    I hope you do make some though! I want to hear how it goes.

    • I can’t wait to try pemmican, and I have a feeling I’ll love it. I’m calling US Wellness Meats tomorrow for a trial order! Can you tell me about bringing pemmican to Colombia? Wouldn’t there be issues with customs? I’m moving to France in a couple of months, and I was thinking about bringing pemmican… but I imagine that I won’t be able to bring that into another country.

      • Last year when I went to Colombia I brought a few food items with me with no problem. Try calling the airline to inquire.

      • It is not customs I would be worried about but the x-rays going through the various airports. It will definitely ruin any real food product.

        • I wonder if you could request that your food get a pat down. You don’t yourself have to go through those things so I wonder if they’d accept the argument for your foods.

  8. I just received my order from US Wellness and I’m scared to try the pemmican. I’ve been on a low-fat basically vegetarian diet for years and this is quite the leap! I’m crossing my fingers I’ll be able to eat it because it looks like a great product…

    • Congratulations on ditching vegetarian and low fat! I was a vegetarian in my teens and early twenties so I know how it feels.

      Just try a bite at first and see what you think. It’s an acquired taste for most anyway, like good cheese. Unless of course you’re already accustomed to eating grassfed. It’s got more of an earthy flavor and can seem a bit odd at first. If you don’t like it, you can always come back to it later once you develop a taste for fat again.

      If you really find you don’t like eating it, don’t throw it out! You can always cook with it. just throw some in a hot skillet and saute your meats and veggies in it.

      Let us know how it goes!

  9. Yeah, by the time you reach your 7 lbs requirement, it’s about that. I will be making pemmican in the coming weeks, and I’ll let everyone know how it goes, how difficult it was etc. Maybe I’ll do a write up on it, and send it to you. May have found a guy who will source me the odd cuts – he doesn’t usually get them back from the butcher but said he’d be happy to send them to me. No vast resource of everything primal you could ever hope for like U.S. Wellness here. On the other hand, cows are still mostly grassfed here, and I don’t get the feeling the Irish government is trying to poison us into having to take medications, like they do in America. Afterall, it’s a socialist economy. Things are generally more natural, so I guess it’s worth having to do a little hunting to find the things I need. Anyways, I’ll be making it, in 6 weeks or less. Point me to any good recipes? I’ve been searching. One last thing for your readers. U.S. Wellness now ships there Pemmican in 2.25 lbs pails at about a 15% savings compared to the bars. Enjoy with a spoon! :)

  10. Thanks so much for the great write-up about Pemmican Peggy! We truly appreciate you spreading the word about such a healthy product. If anyone wants to place a trial order for only pemmican – just give our office a call toll free at (877) 383-0051 and we’ll be happy to send you a few bars. We have a 7 lb order minimum to ensure that all perishable items stay frozen during transit – the more weight in the box the better everything stays frozen. But, since the pemmican does not have to stay frozen we can ship smaller portions if you just want to try it. Our pemmican blog page has lots of details also: Thanks again for the great article!

  11. I also wrote a post on pemmican you may find of interest.

    The Bread of the Wilderness:

  12. Hello Peggy,

    I just started the process of reinventing my self to eat healthier while exercising to live a more fulfilled life. What I love about this article is your love for me people. I am Haliwa Saponi from North Carolina on both lines in my family. I notices that you said you are 1/64 Choctaw and that’s awesome. Having knowledge of your culture and being proud of it made me have to comment. GREAT ARTICLE!!!

    • Thanks for commenting Marc! Guess what I just learned in a book I’m reading, Native Americans have a gene which makes them able to extract more nutrients from a sparse diet. Cool huh? I wonder if I have that gene given that I have so little Native American in me…

  13. I know this is an older thread but I just wanted to add that I finally tried some Pemmican! (this review is more positive than my liver one heh)
    It was not what I expected at all actually, and was much better. I was afraid I wouldn’t like the texture, but it’s quite yummy. I think it tastes kind of like beef stew. A beef stew.. candy bar? Haha, now there’s a Halloween snack us primal moms can appreciate :)

  14. I love pemmican! Thank you so much, Peggy! You made me a believer! Now I eat pemmican for lunch daily, and it gives me energy and keeps me full! Honestly, I didn’t like it much at first. It really is an acquired taste! But now I can’t live without it. LOL!

  15. I plan to experiment with making my own as the company from which you buy your pemmican adds water to their mix which makes it necessary to freeze it and I am looking for long term food storage solutions. I was curious as to wether or not it was consumed raw or added to the cooking pot as a base. I’m happy to see, from your post, that it is acceptable to eat it raw. Thanks for the info!

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