Although @Nis already gave an answer, I want to expand on it a little.
What does it mean to preserve food?
One would be to put the meat into an environment, where bugs, moulds, etc. don't exist (i.e. can't survive). The common way of doing that is to put your food in the freezer, although I have also seen people preserve grain in barrels filled with nitrogen. (Canning is another option. You just have to be sure, there are no moulds or bacteria inside. People have died from improperly canned food.)
The other would be to change the food into something that you can still eat, but bugs, moulds, etc. cannot eat any longer. Here you are making use of two advantages which you have over your competitors.
You are the larger organism. That is to say, you can digest food that smaller organisms cannot digest any longer. I am a big fan of honey, for example. Why do you think that honey doesn't get mouldy? Because it is rich in minerals, vitamins and other things that moulds, or probably even ants can't digest. (Bears can, however.)
You have the power of reversing the preservation process, at least to some extent. E.g. you can reconstitute dried food. You don't have to eat it in the preserved state. Your competitors do, however.
Using these two advantages, you can change fresh food into something that, at least for the period of preservation, is not edible by your competitors, but edible by you, once you choose to eat it.
The true art of preserving food is, however, not to overdo it (because it will not taste as good) and not "underdo" it (or your competitors, the bugs, moulds, etc. will eat it first). You need to get it "just right".
Thus, when preparing preserved food, you should ask yourself for what period you would like to preserve it and under which conditions you will store it (humidity and temperature are the biggest factors). Then taking into account discrepancies in your calculation, you preserve your food.
Salting is very good and doesn't vary so much with humidity. It rather varies with length of preservation and temperature of storage place. A cool place slows down the process of your food being "eaten" by someone else. For Japanese pickled plums (umeboshi) I have the figures in my head:
- 7% salt: 1 year in the fridge
- 12-15% salt: 1 year at room temperature (up to 30, 35 degrees in the summer)
- 20%+ salt: indefinitely at room temperature (7 year umeboshi are quite a delicacy)
The plums are dried in the sun for several days, several hours per day before salting.
I presume similar measures apply to meat. These plums are extremely salty though. You can't really take more than 1 small plum per meal. If you decide to dry and salt your meat, you have to decide how you want to eat it in the end. A big salt-preserved steak won't taste very good...
Similar ideas apply to smoking and drying. Be sure how you want to eat your preserved meat, for how long you want (or need) to preserve it and then by frugal with your preservation methods. Frugal, but not too frugal.