I hear this a lot: “All your meat is frozen, don’t you sell fresh meat?”
This is a good question, after all, when you buy meat in the grocery store, it’s ALWAYS “fresh,” right?
First, while grocery store meat has an expiration date, it is never stamped with the date that it was cut or the date that it was packaged, much less the date that it was put into the display for you to purchase.
One simply cannot determine how “fresh” it is!
Also, there aren’t hard and fast rules for the expiration dates, these are left up to the retail establishment selling meats.
Grocery store meat always “looks” fresh, right?
Looks can be deceiving!
As much as 70% of grocery store meat is treated with carbon monoxide so that it maintains a bright red color, the color is rather un-natural, really. Apparently this technique can keep meat looking fresh for up to a year! I don’t know about you, but I won’t be testing this any time soon…
The method of adding gas to packaged meats to make it look fresh is called Modified Atmosphere Packaging, MAP for short. I have known for years that this was done to grocery store meats, but, while researching this topic I learned that it is also used to keep other sealed products fresh, things like chips and crackers!
Freezing “fresh” meats:
According to the USDA, “if you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.” There we have it, the USDA has established that meat can generally be safely defrosted and refrozen.
Many of you shop at the grocery store for fresh meat, under the assumption that it is truly fresh and has never been frozen. You then bring it home and put it directly into your own freezer.
However, it isn’t always the case that fresh meat wasn’t previously frozen. Grocery stores often purchase bulk quantities of meat which have to be kept frozen. This frozen meat is defrosted and sold as fresh. The consumer then takes it home and unknowingly refreezes it.
Freezing meat preserves it by slowing the movement of molecules, which results in any microbes entering a dormant stage. Basically, freezing prevents the growth of organisms that may cause food borne illness and spoilage.
When meat is defrosted, it begins to deteriorate. When you refreeze meat, you are no longer freezing “fresh” top quality meat. This is because the biggest factor in determining the “freshness” of frozen meats is the condition it was in when frozen.
If you start with meat that was less than fresh, because it was sitting in a display for days or because it was previously frozen, it is not at peak quality. When you pull twice frozen meat out of the freezer to defrost it, it’s not going to taste as good. Color, flavor, and texture will have deteriorated.
You might wonder how fresh and frozen meats compare?
My theory is that frozen may actually be fresher. Bear with me here. I’ve got logic on my side!
When one of our animals is processed, it generally hangs for a anywhere from a few days for pork to two weeks for beef. (As an aside, meat is hung to make it more flavorful and tender. It is done is a large cooler at very low temperatures.)
After hanging, the meat is cut at the PEAK of flavor and tenderness, at it’s highest point of quality and freshness, into steaks, roasts, ground and every other cut that we sell. Immediately after cutting the meat is packaged, vacuum sealed, frozen and then stored in a dark freezer.
Frozen is really as fresh as it gets.
Frozen Meats Win
I feel it is safe to say, that as a general rule, frozen meats from a trusted source are of higher quality than “fresh” meat purchased at your local grocer.
There are, of course, exceptions, such as meats purchased from your local butcher.
The REAL reason why we have sell all of our meat frozen:
The quality concerns with “fresh” grocery store meat are very real, even if they are not the true driving factor for freezing our meats.
The real reason that we sell our meats frozen is that a small farmer cannot sell an entire cow or pig so quickly that it would all stay fresh. Any meat that went bad would cause a loss our farm cannot bear.
The bottom line is that it just isn’t practical for small farmers to sell meats “fresh,” but not frozen.