Salt-cured meat or salted meat, for example ham, bacon, or kippered herring, is meat or fish preserved or cured by salt or brine. Beef jerky also is involved in salt preservation. Salted meat and fish are commonly eaten as a staple of the diet in North Africa, Southern China, and in the Arctic where they are associated with nasopharyngeal cancer caused by infection by the Epstein-Barr Virus. One study hypothesizes that a covector is anaerobic bacteria found in salted fish.(not a verified study)
Because salting was the only widely available method of preserving food until the 19th century, salted meat was a staple of the mariner's diet in the Age of Sail. It was stored in barrels, and often had to last for months spent out of sight of land. The basic Royal Navy diet consisted of salted beef, salted pork, ship's biscuit, and oatmeal, supplemented with smaller quantities of peas, cheese and butter.
Salt inhibits the growth of microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria. Smoking, often used in the process of curing meat, adds chemicals to the surface of meat that reduce the concentration of salt required.
'Salt beef' in the UK and Commonwealth as a cured and boiled foodstuff is sometimes known as 'Corned beef' elsewhere, though traditional salt beef is different in taste and preparation. The use of the term corned comes from the fact that the Middle English word corn could refer to grains of salt as well as cereal grains.