Storing Meat in the Freezer

Apr 06, 2017

Ever wonder if that meat in the freezer is still good? With so many different types of packaging used at the meat counter, it’s hard to tell just how long meat will last in the freezer. The type of meat and how it is packaged plays a huge role in how long it can be stored.

When freezing meat, one helpful tip is to cut off any excess fat or remove any bones if possible. This will help save space in your freezer. You also want to make sure that the meat does not have any added salt. Salt in the packaging will draw out moisture and will oxidize the meat fat, giving it a rancid flavor and shortening the period the meat can be left in the freezer. Therefore any meat that is further processed, or contains added salt will stay fresh for a shorter amount of time in the freezer.

If packaged correctly, pork will keep for around six months, while beef and lamb can be kept for up to 12 months in the freezer. This is because pork contains more unsaturated fatty acids than the other meats. There is some variation in freezer times across the different cuts. For any meat product that is ground, such as hamburger, the freezer time is shorter.

Below is a table of recommended storage time for maximum quality products as long as the food is properly packaged in an air-tight container.

Meat in Freezer Wrapping

 

Freezer (0° F or Colder)

Fresh

Beef cuts

6 to 12 months

 

Veal and lamb cuts

6 to 9 months

 

Pork cuts

6 months

 

Ground beef, veal and lamb

3 to 4 months

 

Ground pork

1 to 3 months

 

Variety Meats

3 to 4 months

 

Leftover cooked meat

2 to 3 months

Processed

Luncheon meat

1 to 2 months

 

Sausage

1 to 2 months

 

Frankfurters

1 to 2 months

 

Bacon

1 month

 

Smoked ham

1 to 2 months

Frozen Combination Foods,

Packaged

Meat Pies

2 to 3 months

Stews

3 to 4 months

 

Prepared dinner

2 to 3 months

 

When freezing meat, you want to do it as quickly as possible, ensuring its quality is maintained in the freezing process. A fast freeze also helps meat retain more moisture in the process, giving you a higher quality product when defrosted.

One problem that many consumers face when freezing meat is freezer burn. Freezer burn is caused by a loss of moisture in a food product. The most common source of this is when a product is partially defrosted and then refrozen. If the package is not air tight against the product, freezer burn will occur due to dehydration. If meat does become freezer burn it will have a bland or rancid taste and tough texture when cooked. 

Video Podcasts and Webinars

  • Grass or grain? Is there a definitively sustainable beef production system?

    03/22/2016

    The webinar examined the science relating to grass-fed and grain-fed beef in terms of sustainable... read more »

  • 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Update

    01/12/2016

    Kris Sollid, Registered Dietitian with the International Food Information Council and Sarah Romo... read more »

  • Meat in the Diet

    08/10/2015

    read more »

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