Meat Storage and Freezing Guidelines

Meat Storage and Freezing Guidelines

Storing Uncooked Meat

Meat should be stored at a low temperature to help preserve its quality and prevent the growth of illness causing bacteria. Chilling meat to below 40° F is recommended. Meat can be chilled or frozen. In order to freeze meat, you must drop the temperature below 28° F.

Refrigerating Meat

Refrigeration is a good way to store meat for short periods of time. Refrigerated meat should be stored below 35° F and wrapped to prevent dehydration, odor absorption, and contamination of the meat and other foods in your refrigerator. You may extend the shelf life of meat by removing the retail packaging and rewrapping the meat in foil. In general, you should consume refrigerated meat within four days of purchase.

Cured meat products have a longer, more stable life in the refrigerator. They can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 60 days.

Freezing Meat

Freezing is an excellent way to store meat for longer periods of time. It allows the meat to maintain most of it’s physical properties, taste, texture, smell, and nutritive properties. Small amounts of nutrients (salts, proteins, peptides, amino acids, and water-soluble vitamins) will be lost as drip when the meat is thawed.

Frozen meat will have a different color than fresh meat. You should learn to recognize the “normal” frozen meat color so that you can identify frozen meat which may have an unusual color and may have spoiled.

Your freezer should remain at a constant temperature that is below 0° (-10°F is better). If you must remove your meat from the freezer for short periods of time, it should be maintained at a temperature below 28° F.

Frozen storage time is extended by proper packaging, which is sealed to prevent air and moisture exchange and protects against freezer burn (areas of severe dehydration on the surface of the meat). The table below shows the maximum recommended length of storage for different meat products at 0° F for the preservation of optimum quality.

Type of Meat Freezer Storage Time

beef 6 months
lamb 6 months
veal 4 months
variety meats 3 months
poultry 4 months
ground beef 6 months
ground lamb 6 months
seasoned sausage 2 months
fish 6 months

Meats That Should Not Be Frozen

Sliced meats and lunch meat should only be frozen if they are vacuum packed. When not vacuum packed they can develop a rancid flavor within a matter of days or weeks.

Freezing of Cooked Meat

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