It’s getting close to springtime and that means that spring & summer sports teams are gearing up for a new year of fun & excitement on the field! With many minor sports teams fundraising with meats and other foods, we felt it was important to help educate parents about the importance of proper meat storage.

What does proper meat storage mean? You may be saying to yourself, “I’ve been putting meat in the freezer for years and never had a problem”, and fingers crossed, you never will. However, proper food storage can help extend the lifespan of your meat, help it keep its flavour, as well as help avoid anyone getting sick. 

Freezing Your Meat 101

Fundraising with meat for your sports team is one of the most profitable and fastest ways to raise money. However, it is important to remember that meat is meat, and it can go bad if left out. Freezing food that you are not using is rules 1, 2 and 3 for proper food storage. 

Freezing your meat stops the metabolic process of all the micro-organisms that live on everything. When they’re frozen, they can’t grow and multiply in the same way that they can at room temperature. This is key because those micro-organisms are what turn your meat bad. By freezing them, you stop them from growing and multiplying and wrecking any delicious meat you’ve gotten from your last fundraiser. You’ll want to keep your freezer at -18° C in order to lower in order to effectively freeze your meats.

It is important to remember that once you thaw out your meat, those micro-organisms become active again. You need to thoroughly cook your meat in order to kill off those organisms before you try your food. Different foods have different minimum temperatures you need to reach to kill off all dangerous organisms. 

Category Food Temperature (F)
Ground Meat & Meat Fixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160
Turkey & Chicken 165
Fresh Beef, Veal, & Lamb Steaks, Roasts, Chops 145
Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, Duck, Goose) Whole Poultry, Breast, Thighs & Legs 165
Pork & Ham Fresh Pork & Ham 145
Precooked Ham (To Reheat) 140
Eggs Eggs any style Cook until whites and yolk are firm
Egg Dishes Dishes containing eggs 160
Leftovers Any leftovers 165
Casseroles Any casseroles 165
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or until flesh is opaque and flakes with a fork
Shrimp, Lobster, & Crab Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque
Clams, Oysters, & Muscles Cook until shells open during cooking
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm

Cornell Cooperative Extension | Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Two Tips to Properly Freeze Your Meat

Proper Packaging

Properly packing meat is critical for preserving your newly acquired fundraiser goodies. Proper storage can help preserve flavour and extend the lifespan of meats in your freezer.

The first and most important rule of packing your meat is to minimize your meat’s contact with air. Exposure to air promotes freezer burn and can ruin the taste of your food. 

One of the best ways to get rid of as much air as possible is to separate the meat into smaller amounts and put them into sealable bags. When you’re sealing the zip lock, simply press out and much air as you can before sealing the bag. This will help reduce the contact with air.

Freeze Your Meat A Quickly As Possible

As soon as you get home from your meat fundraiser drop off, FREEZE YOUR MEAT! It is important to freeze your meat as soon and as quickly as possible to preserve it;s flavour and avoid freezer burn. 

When you freeze your food quickly, it ensures that the molecules of water in your food don’t have time to develop into full ice crystals (like snowflakes). You’ve probably seen these snowflakes on food items that have been frozen for a long time and know from experience that these meats taste the worst because all the moisture has been sucked out.

Freezing your foods quickly avoids the issue of ice crystals and keeps your meats BBQ ready for much much longer.

How To Safely Thaw Your Food

This may sound surprising, but you should never thaw food in a container on a countertop. Doing so can leave your meat unsafe to eat. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are 3 methods for safely thawing foods:

  1. In a refrigerator
  2. In cold water
  3. In a microwave

Other methods of thawing food leave it open to be exposed to bacteria or allow bacteria to grow. 

Thawing via Cold Water or in the Refrigerator

A good practice for thawing out your food safely is to move it from your freezer to your fridge. While still cool, a fridge is warm enough to safely bring your frozen meats from frozen to thawed. On average the best temperature to keep your fridge at is 4° C. This temperature extends the life of your food without while not totally freezing it. This process of thawing food in the fridge does take time. A good rule of thumb is that for every 5 pounds of weight, your food will require 1 day to thaw. 

Thawing in a Microwave

If you are thawing your food in your microwave, it is important to use the thaw setting until your food has been brought to room temperature. After it has reached room temperature you’ll need to immediately set your microwave to cook, so you don’t expose your food to the same bacteria floating around in the air.

The Ideal Temperature For Your Freezer

When you are setting your freezer, keep the temperature at -18° Celsius or below. At this temperature, food is safe to eat indefinitely (although quality and taste may be compromised after a while). While many foods will freeze at about o° Celsius, they need to be stored at 0° Fahrenheit to slow down deterioration, so colder is better.

And don’t worry about freezer burn with really cold temperatures — it’s caused by exposure to air, not temperature.

To make sure your freezer is running at the correct temperature, get a freezer thermometer to monitor the temperature, and make sure you defrost your freezer every once in a while to make sure it’s running efficiently.

Following Safe Handling Practices

Remember to always follow safe food handling practices when taking your food out of storage to prepare it.  Clean your hands, surfaces and produce, as well as separating raw foods from ready-to-eat foods will further reduce your risk of getting sick. It is easy to cross-contaminate one food with another if you aren’t careful. 

With the amounts of meats moving through fundraisers every day, we want to make sure you’re staying safe.