Is Frozen Meat Cheaper Than Fresh? (Question Answered)


When it comes to meat, there are many different varieties and forms of meat which will naturally affect the price. One of the biggest variables is whether the meat has been frozen or sold fresh.

In this article, I will teach you everything you need to know about the price differences between frozen and fresh meat. Is it better to buy frozen meat, how long does frozen meat last, and additional knowledge that everyone should know about meat. Before we dive deeper into the subject, you need to understand is frozen meat cheaper than fresh?

Frozen meat is cheaper than fresh meat because of many reasons, such as easier transport and storage due to the long shelf life. Fresh meat spoils quickly, but frozen meat can stay in perfect condition for months. Finally, most meats are seasonal; therefore, freezing will keep the prices down.

Quickly said, that is how it is. However, there is much more to know about why frozen meat is cheaper, so if you really want to understand everything behind the fact, you should stick with me when I dive more in-depth into the subject. Without a further due, let’s get started!

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Why is frozen meat cheaper than fresh?

There are three main reasons why frozen meat is cheaper than fresh. However, each of these reasons contains many little reasons that construct the big picture. Let’s start with shelf life.

1. Far superior shelf life

When you purchase that juicy piece of meat from your nearby grocery store or get a nice dish from a restaurant, the chases are that the meat has come from hundreds of miles away.

Naturally, when you need to transport fresh meat accordingly, it is trickier than transporting meat that is frozen solid. When transporting or storing, for that matter, the meat needs to be below 40°F (4.4°C), so any harmful bacteria can’t reach dangerous levels.

Also, when transporting fresh meat, the chances are that it can be compromised to heat or sunlight, which can diminish its nutritional value. If a piece of meat is frozen right, it will retain its nutritional values, so frozen meat can be more nutritious than fresh, even when fresh costs more.

If these reasons aren’t all to keep frozen meat prices far below fresh meat’s, there are more. When the meat reaches the shelves of a grocery store or to the fridge of a restaurant, it usually needs to be out of the establishment within three to five days because it spoils so fast.

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2. Modern freezing methods

When thinking about the old days, like hundreds of years ago, getting food to a frozen state was complicated, especially in warmer countries. However, in modern days it is far from that. There are many freezing and chilling methods that can be used to freeze meat; however, individual quick freezing or IQF is a powerful one.

IQF is a freezing method that many large food industry facilities use to freeze huge quantities of meats, vegetables, berries, baked goods, or you name it. The main reason IQF is so beneficial, especially when frozen meat, is that it only takes a couple of minutes to freeze the meat completely.

When meat is frozen so quickly, it prevents the forming of ice crystals in the meat’s molecular structure, which helps the meat keep its characteristic texture, taste, and nutritional value. All who have ever frozen meat in a home or restaurant freezer has probably noticed that when the meat is defrosted, it loses its original texture, color, it loses its taste, and it can even smell weird. This is because ice crystals had time to get large and break the meat’s cells.

Another huge benefit about IQF, especially for restaurants, is that the frozen goods, whether meat, veggies, or whatever, aren’t a frozen block of mess. All of the pieces are well separated, allowing precise portion control, which is extremely important in restaurants and other industries that handle large quantities of meat. This will also help reducing food waste.

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Now you might wonder how on earth all of this is reflected in the price? Well, when everything can be done so fast and efficiently to a state that requires less monitoring, increases shelf life, and reduces the spoiling time, it will certainly push down the prices, even when a proper individual quick freezing machine isn’t cheap.

3. Seasonality is a thing in meat as well

The third reason is seasonality. When thinking about seasonal ingredients, it is more likely that you think about vegetables and berries, at least I do. However, meat has seasonality as well!

All kinds of meats, from beef to poultry all the way to lamb and pork, have their own times of the year that they are more available and at their best. Naturally, this will result in price fluctuations as it does in vegetables and berries. It’s crazy that in the summer, a couple of tomatoes can cost easily less than $1, but in the winter, they can reach $3 or more. The same phenomenon can be found in meat products.

However, there is one exception to the rule, freezing! As quickly mentioned above, fresh meat won’t last long after slaughtering, and it will usually stay fresh 3 to 5 days after purchasing it from your nearby supermarket. When combined with the decreased supply of a certain meat product due to its seasonality, it will cost way more than usual.

When you freeze meat in the summer, which is usually the best time for meats and nearly all other products, it will last far to the winter and can be sold nearly at the summer’s low price, whereas the same meat next costs considerably more.

Finally, seasonality prices don’t vary only because of the different stock of their product, but also the flavor and texture are better when the particular animal’s seasonality is at its best.

As we can see, quite a few things are affecting the price differences of frozen and fresh meat, and I hope that you now can understand better why frozen meat is nearly always cheaper than fresh. Now, let’s see it is good to buy frozen meat products or stick with fresh ones?

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Is it good to buy frozen meat?

As quickly noted above, frozen meat can be as good or even better in all ways than fresh meat. This is because fresh meat decays much faster, and it is more vulnerable to damage and bacteria. Unfortunately, in many cases, frozen meat isn’t as good as fresh when considering the outcome in terms of taste, texture, smell, or even the pleasure of cooking.

A finished dish of meat cooked from a frozen state is commonly more dilute in taste, and it won’t retain its natural juiciness and fresh meat. This is because the meat that has been frozen with individual quick freeze or IQF is harder to find than meat that has been frozen in a traditional freezer. This will give the large ice crystals time to from and destroy the meat’s cells, so its texture, taste, and color will be affected.

Nonetheless, if the meat has been properly frozen or if the meat hasn’t been frozen for months should give you nearly as good an outcome as fresh meat so that I wouldn’t worry about it too much, and I don’t.

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How long is meat good in freezer?

It’s essential to know how long a certain meat product can be safely kept in the freezer. There are huge differences between meats varying from 1-2 months to a whole year, so not all are equal in this matter.

As a rule of thumb, all meats can be frozen for at least one month, whether it is fresh or cooked; however, after that, you should be careful and know how long you should keep your product in the freezer.

Below I have gathered some information from the FDA so you can get a rough estimate of the general products of meats, poultry, and fish, both fresh and cooked. However, if you want to search for a specific product such as sharp or hot dogs, you should see their FDA’s full list here.

Meat ProductFreezer Storage Time
Fresh meat4-12 months
Fresh poultry9-12 months
Fresh lean fish6-8 months
Cooked meat2-3 months
Cooked poultry4-6 months
Cooked fish4-6 months
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

What happens if meat gets freezer burn?

In short, if the meat gets a freezer burn, it will change the meat’s quality slightly or drastically depending on how bad the freezer burn is.

A freezer burn will cause large ice crystals to the meat’s cells, leading to a shriveled, hardy, and leathery texture. In addition, the meat’s color can turn grayish, and the taste won’t be as good, and it won’t retain its natural juices when it is cooked. Nonetheless, meat that has suffered freezer burn is perfectly safe to eat.

Conclusion

Next time when you are comparing the prices between frozen and fresh meat, remember that shelf life, modern freezing technology, and seasonality will have a big part of its current price. Also, if you want to purchase frozen quality meat, you should check out how it is frozen if it is labeled with the information. Also, many meat shops will know the answer if you ask them.

I hope that this article gave you value and you now know the reason behind the price differences between fresh and frozen meat.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS and while I love working in a busy restaurant, I also enjoy more peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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