Environmental consciousness is growing, and the demand for organic, green and healthy food items has never been higher, with the organic food market expected to grow by over 9% in the next five years.1 With more people looking to buy sustainable, high quality meat, an understanding of safe storage is important, not only for health and safety reasons, but also to preserve the quality and nutritional value of the best cuts offered by sustainable grass-fed meat.
A Note On Shelf Life
Different cuts of meat spoil more easily than others. The more surface area your meat has, the more exposure it has to microbes, so minced meat has the shortest shelf life. Mincing breaks down the cell walls of the meat and gives the product more surface area, exposing it to oxygen, which can make the meat appear gray in color. While many producers add chemical preservatives and antioxidants to combat this, high quality sustainable meat is chemical-free, so the shelf life will be shorter, and you may notice some natural gray coloring.
Cured meats, such as bacon, bologna and salami, have a longer shelf life because the salt used in the curing process slows down microbial activity. The USDA notes that mold thrives on salt and sugar, however, which means that it’s more likely to grow on meats that have been cured.2 Some molds cause respiratory problems, and some, including stachybotrys, produce mycotoxins, which can be responsible for health complications. Although mold usually grows in humid conditions, cured meats that are stored in the fridge may be susceptible if kept for too long, so always pay attention to the use-by date on your meats.
Refrigerating Raw Meat
Fresh raw meat should always be kept in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Your refrigerator should be kept below 41°F (5°C), but 37°F (3°C) is ideal for slowing down microbial activity without freezing the contents. To maintain safe conditions in your fridge, keep it clean, regularly check the temperature, and don’t leave the door open unnecessarily.
Raw meat should be stored at the bottom of the fridge where it is coldest. This will also prevent any leaking juices from running onto other food items. Leave the meat in its packaging until you’re ready to use it, but if you do need to open the packet, make sure the meat is kept in a clean airtight container.
Freezing Raw Meat
The shelf-life of raw meat can be extended by six months or more if you freeze it. This can be done on any day before it’s use-by date, but it’s best done as soon as possible. Make sure it’s well packaged, either in vacuum packaging, food storage boxes or sealed well in freezer bags. Be sure to write the date of freezing on the packet so you know how long it’s been stored. Once it has been defrosted, you can use it within the number of days there were until the use-by date on the day of freezing.
Defrosting, however, should be done carefully. Aim to plan ahead and move the meat into the fridge 24 hours before you intend to use it, allowing it to defrost thoroughly but slowly, without the risk of it becoming too warm. Bear in mind that large joints and poultry may take longer than 24 hours to defrost this way. For smaller cuts, if you do forget to defrost it in advance, you can speed up the process by defrosting them in water: make sure the packaging is watertight, and then submerge it in a bath of cold water. The process should take around 30 minutes for 1-2lbs (500g-1Kg) of meat.
By being mindful of use-by dates and storing your meat correctly, you can be sure of your health and safety with each meal. Storing it correctly will also ensure that you really get the best of what high quality meat has to offer, benefiting from the superior flavor and nutritional value of grass-fed animals.
Meet The Author
After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness, right through to news and current affairs. She has, in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.