It’s that time of year to make plans for buying and storing your grass fed beef. Most grass fed beef is available in summer or fall, but reservations often fill up early. Planning needs to begin months ahead of time.
Packaging of the meat makes a difference on freezer life. Your grass fed beef should be either double wrapped in butcher paper with at least one layer coated, or vacuum packed in heavy plastic. Wrapping in thin plastic or single layer paper will lead to premature freezer burn. One thing to remember is that the surface of the beef will lose it’s bright red color over time from exposure to air and light. This is not often not noticable in the grocery store meat because chemicals are sometimes added to prevent the color change. When your beef is wrapped in paper, you won’t notice it until you thaw it and open the package. When the beef is vacuum packed in clear plastic, the change is obvious. It may be disconcerting, but the color change is harmless.
Your grass fed beef needs to be stored safely in an appropriate freezer. The first consideration is that it will likely be a large quantity of meat. The small freezer attached to your refrigerator is not large enough. Also, these freezers are self-defrosting. The frequent change in temperature may cause the meat to deteriorate long before it’s time. Instead, purchase or borrow a chest or upright deep freeze. I have found beef to store safely and with little or no quality loss for at least two years in an appropriate deep freeze.
Which is better? Chest or upright freezer? As long as it is functioning normally, either one will keep your meat deep frozen, safe, and for a long time. It is easier to sort and find things in an upright freezer, but the chest freezer may have less temperature fluctuation each time you open and close it. If given a choice, I’d take the upright. I’ve been known to lose things in the deep chest freezer.
Choose a freezer that is more than large enough for your needs. A jam packed freezer is difficult to navigate and won’t stay as cold as one with some breathing room. You can save money by purchasing a used freezer, but test it to see if it works before you take it home. A new freezer may provide more years of useful service.
Monitor the temperature frequently. I recently discovered that the inexpensive wireless thermometers work well and decrease the need to open the freezer. If you have more than one freezer, don’t try to use multiple wireless thermometers. They will either read only the strongest signal or cancel each other out.
Finally, have a backup power source for your freezer. It is very disheartening to lose a whole freezer full of meat because of a power outage. A gas generator or a battery back up can fill the bill. If you do have a power outage and don’t have back up power, do not be tempted to open the freezer to check the meat! It will stay cold much longer if the freezer is not opened.
If you plan ahead and carefully choose the most appropriate freezer for your needs, you will be able to enjoy grass fed beef for many years.