Meat processing: Packaging, freezing and storage
Can I ship Frozen Meat?
Yes, shipping frozen meat is easy using modern insulated shipping supplies that include a thick-walled styrofoam shipping cooler, sturdy corrugated outer box, a well-estimated amount of cooling agent, and filler material to take up any extra space.
In special cases as with high-priced cuts, you have the option of tracking meat temperatures in real-time using data loggers that go in with the product.
The following is an easy process for packing and shipping beef, poultry, pork, venison, wild game, or even frozen seafood will give you peace of mind the entire time your package of frozen meat is in transit. First, you need to know why it is absolutely vital to keep meat frozen until it gets to your end-user.
How to Pack and Ship Frozen Meat - A Standard Approach
Most frozen meat shipments to resellers, retailers, or customers get packaged up similarly to the steps below so that the resulting package is well-Insulated enough to sustain its perishable contents for up to a few days, accounting for unforeseen events along the way, if absolutely necessary.
Once the meat shipping box is out of your hands and at the mercy of delivery services, it’s too late to worry, so getting it right before it goes out the door is vital.
Step One – Prepare, Package, and Pre-Cool Your Frozen Meat to Go in Shipping Cooler
For shipping cost estimate accuracy, weigh the frozen meat as it may be slightly heavier than it was when thawed. The frozen weight is the accurate weight. Unwrapped and unpackaged meat doesn’t have added weight of those materials.
If you got the meat unpackaged, any added at your location gets weighed with the meat at the shipping office and should be included in your cost estimates prior. Real-world shipping tests can narrow these numbers down with precise accuracy.
If your frozen meat has not already been wrapped or put into some form of logo-branded packaging to protect the meat surface, then whoever is in charge of its shipping must take care of that part to prevent the cooling source from touching the meat. Of course, if the meat has to be packaged on the spot, it needs to be re-weighed to account for added materials.
If you are required to ‘Pre-Cool’ your frozen meat in a temperature-controlled room to prevent thawing, place all supplies in that same space for temperature consistency and have them handy to avoid wasting time leaving the space to go fetch them. Time is money, and TEMPERATURE is money, Time affects Temperature, so time affects profits.
Step Two – Ready Your Shipping Cooler & Corrugated Outer Box You’ll Use to Ship Frozen Meat
Make sure your cooler has a lid with it and is clear of any unrelated items, dirt, or anything that can impact food quality and preparation environment standards. This especially applies if you are re-using styrofoam shipping coolers, cooling agents, or related items.
Step Three – Ready Your Cooling Source: Gel Ice Packs, Dry Ice, or the combination of Both
Hopefully, you’ve already pre-calculated the expected amount of Dry Ice or Gel Ice Pack refrigerant you plan to use, taking into account the weight of the protected contents, the volume of the fully boxed up package to-be-completed package, and the expected transit time.
You can do this using the Shipping calculators located on USPS, FedEx, and UPS websites. If you send out the same types of packages consistently, this is a predictable factor.
FedEx requests Priority Overnight service only for Wet Ice shipments used, for example, by some seafood shipping companies to keep their products super-fresh for maximum customer satisfaction. You should assume the same level of consideration when shipping Wet Ice-cooled frozen meat through USPS and UPS.
Step Four – Gather Shipping Supply and Packaging Materials – these are the items necessary to assemble your frozen meat package securely, and with maximum integrity. These insulated shipping accessories are the same across all major shipping carriers.
– 2mm-Thick Heavy-duty Plastic or Plastic Bag Wrapping
– Filler Paper (dunnage) or Packing Peanuts
– Heavy-duty Packaging Tape
– Rubber Bands, Zip Ties, or Clips as Needed for Securing and Tying
– Absorbent Padding or other Moisture-soaking Material
– Temperature Tracker or Data Logger
– Any necessary Shipping Labels from the Carrier or Regulatory Labels
- Perishable Label (if desired, but it is recommended)
- Carrier Shipping Label
- Hazardous Material Label (Dry Ice is a dangerous good if not properly handled)
UN1845 Dry Ice Shipping Label (for such cases) as shown here.******URL INSERT******* You’ll need permanent markings on the outer packaging including:
• “Dry Ice” or “Carbon Dioxide Solid.”
• “UN 1845.”
• Net weight of dry ice in kilograms.
• Name and address of the shipper.
• Name and address of the recipient
Step Five – Wrap your meat product in two layers of 2mm Heavy-duty Plastic
Sheet plastic, plastic bag, or similar to protect from touching the cooling sources as well as serve as a moisture barrier, as long as it meets the 2mm minimum.
For some, this also serves as the official’ meat packaging,’ as wth mail order cuts just wrapped in wax paper then put into plastic for delivery to a customer.
If your meat is being delivered without any branded packaging, and you’re using the 2mm plastic as your meat’s ‘unbranded’ packaging, you may wish to wrap that in an extra 2mm layer or two, as your competitors may have their meat pre-wrapped, branded, and are still asked to put their already-wrapped, finished product in a 2mm plastic bag.
Twist out any excess air and use rubber bands, zip ties, clips, or whatever else will tightly secure it so that it does not start to come undone after tying, zipping, or clipping.
Step Six – Place Absorbent Padding as needed
Add absorbent materials to the mix by either wrapping your already plastic-protected, tied, and secured meat in an absorbent layer, or placing the moisture-soaking material on the surface area you expect the product to occupy in the shipping cooler, and then you can set your product on top of the padding, which serves a secondary function of cushioning.
Step Seven – arrange the first and then any additional layers of your Cooling Source(s)
Place your Dry Ice, Gel Ice Packs (or Cold Packs), or a combination of both within the Styrofoam Shipping Cooler in such a way that you can thereafter place your meat on top for a good fit without too much moving around the room. If there is leftover space, fill the gaps with the dunnage paper, packing peanuts, etc.
After the meat is secure, you can add more Cooling Sources to fit around its sides and on top before putting in any more filler to take up the remaining empty cubic footage.
If you are in the process of ‘package shipment testing’ to optimize costs for more profit, keep track of exactly how much Dry Ice or Gel Ice Packs get the job done at the lowest cost to the farthest distances that still end in complete customer satisfaction.
For example, do you really need enough cold sources to last a four-day trip when you mostly ship frozen meat overnight or 2-Day? In such cases, you can save money by test shipping to determine how much to reduce the number and weight of necessary supplies, keeping in mind your business and customer service goals.
Step Eight – Set up any Temperature Tracking Data Loggers
Whether you use thermal tracking devices for testing purposes, or as a normal part of your meat shipping Quality Assurance Program, set them up prior to putting on and tape-sealing the shipping cooler lid.
Step Nine – Use a 2″ (or wider) Heavy-duty Packaging Tape
Strong adhesive box tape is to effectively secure the container lid on all sides. Doing this makes the cooler airtight to prevent warmer outside air from seeping in.
Step Ten – Insert the Styrofoam Shipping Cooler into the Corrugated Cold Shipping Box Liner.
The heavy-duty corrugated box should be Size-compatible with the foam cooler so that it fits snuggly without wiggle room unless you are dealing with an extra-large box wherein you plan to fit multiple packages. If so, you should still use something to fill any leftover space within the larger box after its contents are loaded.
Step Eleven – Seal Your Frozen Meat shipping package with the same 2″ (or wider) Heavy-duty Tape
Taping the exterior cardboard box should be done in an ‘H Pattern’ for extra security to ensure nothing comes undone.
Step Twelve – Apply Required Outer Box Markings, Shipping Labels, etc. and Send
This is the final step before turning the package over to your chosen package delivery carrier. Verify beforehand so that there are no issues after you’ve left the package with them.
Always ask your shipping representative about cost-saving shipping options that would allow you to increase your profits while keeping customer satisfaction the same.
For example, do you really need to send everything overnight or can you get the frozen meat there with 2-Day Shipping and keep your buyers happy?
Now that you see the general way frozen meat gets packaged for shipment and delivery, you need to know why using these kinds of supplies in this way is so important, and how to prevent your package from being rejected by the carrier or, worse, ruining the customer experience by losing thermal integrity during transit due to improper assembly, cooling sources, or shipping schedule.