Freezing Meat : We Say Yes!

Reader Contribution by Kristen Kilfoyle and Sugar River Farm
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Why We Freeze

A few times a year at our weekly farmers markets, we will be asked if our meat is frozen or fresh, to which we reply frozen. After a few muttered, “Thanks anyways…” followed by leaving our booth, it occurred to me that I needed a way to explain the benefits of freezing and why we chose this option.

Our Process

Our animals, pasture raised chicken, turkey, duck and pigs, are raised outdoors and either on pasture or in forested glens. We raise animals this way not only because the animals prefer it and thrive, but because it benefits our soils and provides a superior product in both flavor and nutrition. Living in New England, raising animals the way we want to all year round is impossible, especially for poultry. As a result, we raise our animals in the spring, summer and fall in amounts that sustain the needs of our customers all year long. Our animals are processed at inspected plants, vacuum sealed and frozen in portioned packages suitable for meals. We then store the product at or below 0*.

Why Frozen?

I don’t like using the word preserve when discussing meat, as it evokes lovely thoughts of preservatives, too much sodium, chemicals and other such things. It is appropriate, however, as freezing meat at its peak of freshness preserves the amazing flavor and nutritional benefits of your farm raised meats and locks them in for over a year (if stored in a freezer at 0*). Gone are the days of panicking about product spoiling and your beautiful animals going to waste.

Offering frozen meats to your customers in appropriately sized packages offers them enormous flexibility in their meal planning. No more having to buy packages of eight fresh commodity chicken breasts at the supermarket, only eating four, freezing the remaining four after they’ve been fresh in the package for who knows how many days and once you want chicken again having to thaw and use immediately for fear of bacteria. We sell our pastured chicken breasts in packs of two. Take out as many packages as you will need, thaw and enjoy the freshness. The rest of your packages are safely in the freezer awaiting the time when they will be needed.

Another benefit to us is food safety. We sell our meats at a handful of weekly farmers markets where some of our customers bring their own cooler bags and others do not. Where the markets are in the warm weather, I’d much prefer to send a customer home with a frozen piece of meat where the likelihood of spoiling is severely diminished.

Oftentimes, customers associate frozen meat with inferior or older product that wasn’t going to sell before it went bad. It is on us as farmers to explain why we do what we do. We had the most questions on the frozen vs fresh with regards to our Thanksgiving turkeys which we process in September and store for customers until the week before Thanksgiving. We believe our birds are actually fresher than the fresh bird you would buy in the supermarket, as our bird was frozen a day after processing, and up until that point had been enjoying warm weather, low stress handling and fresh grasses. Freezing locked in these benefits at their highest concentration. Birds processed at the end of November have had to withstand colder weather, diminishing pasture and cramped processing schedules due to the volume of birds needing to be done for the holiday. I’m not sure about you, but I know which one I’d rather eat.

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