Meat Storage


The ideal temperature for the storage of fresh meat is 28°F to 32°F. Meat should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator. As storage temperatures approach 40°F perishability increases. Rapid growth of bacteria begins at about 50°F. Meat in-transit from the place of purchase, or left to thaw at room temperature, invites the growth of spoilage organisms. If meat is not going to be used within a few days after purchase, it should be frozen as soon as possible to preserve optimal quality.

Cured and smoked meat, including luncheon meat and canned hams, are less perishable than fresh meats. These meat products should be refrigerated in their original packaging. Canned products such as soups or stews should remain on the pantry shelf until opens, but once the thermal seal has been broken, the can’s contents should be refrigerated.


Freezing is the most common method of meat preservation. Trimming excess fat and removing bones, if possible, will conserve freezer space. Meat should not be salted prior to freezing. Salting draws out moisture and oxidizes meat fat giving it a rancid flavor and reducing the time meat can be left in the freezer.

Animal fats, like other lipids, are subject to deterioration over time. They are especially prone to develop oxidative rancidity which results in objectionable flavors and odors. The more unsaturated fatty acids there are in the fat, the greater its susceptibility to oxidation and rancidity. This is why pork, which has more unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) than other meats, is more perishable than beef and lamb. This fact provides the basis for limiting storage of properly wrapped pork in the freezer to six months, whereas beef and lamb can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months. In the case of processed animal fats, rancidity is eliminated, or at least delayed, by incorporation of antioxidants, such as vitamin C or by hydrogenation of the fat.

Storage Tips:

Since product dates aren't a guide for safe use of a product, how long can the consumer store the food and still use it at top quality? Follow these tips:

  • Purchase the product before the date expires.
  • Follow handling recommendations on product
  • Keep lamb in its package until ready to use.
  • If product has a "use-by" date, follow that date.
  • Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn't matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.
  • If product has a "sell-by" date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the recommended times.


Video Podcasts and Webinars

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