How To Manage Your Meat AFTER You’ve Bought It
We need to protect, store, and rotate our meat investments.
In this article, we’re going to look at managing your bulk meat purchase. Post-purchase – post bulk meat buying. What do we do after filling our freezer with half a cow or any other fresh meat to ensure nothing gets wasted?
This post IS NOT a how-to on buying half a cow, how to do it, or anything other than how to manage it after you have made the purchase.
With the troubles of our supply chain and skyrocketing food prices, many preppers are taking the head-on approach when it comes to meat. They’re buying half a cow or splitting a pig with someone. Or maybe they’re buying a whole cow, quarter, or even a sixteenth of a cow from a farmer. Buying fresh meat is just smart. It fills your freezer and offers an instant form of food security that preppers understand well.
But what do you do after you’ve bought half a cow? Or any bulk meat that’s being stored in a freezer?
One of my prepping buddies is about to buy a quarter cow, and I was planning on splitting a pig with a family member. I also have a local friend that’s willing to go in half with me on half a cow. The high meat prices, and sometimes shortages, we’re all dealing with right now have many of us taking the bulk purchase approach as far as filling our freezers with meat.
Managing Bulk Meat Purchases
I’m all about planning and I can’t think of a more deserving purchase than hundreds of pounds of meat when it comes to planning out how to manage your bulk meat purchase. The last thing we want is, a year later, to start tossing meat away because we managed the meat wrong. We are dealing with a shelf life here, just frozen shelves.
Most preppers that also hunt already understand meat management when we’re dealing with a hundred or more pounds of fresh meat all at once. With the economy having gone sideways as it has, more and more preppers are making those bulk meat purchases. I imagine we’re going to see more hunting as well.
Like I mentioned above, this isn’t a how-to for buying half a cow. I will say do your research, look into reviews, and try to buy as local as possible. Ask questions to help determine how the animal was fed and the quality of life it lived. I don’t want to go beyond that, or I’d be changing the entire topic of this article.
The farmer/rancher will generally sell the animal, send it to the butcher/processor, and you’ll have options as far as how and what you get. The cuts will be packaged (Often vacuum sealed) and labeled. You’re not going to get a cow thrown onto your tailgate and have to stop by Harbor Freight on the way home for a bandsaw. 😉
Also, if your cuts are to be packaged in butcher paper, I’d ask for an upgrade to freezer-safe vacuum packaging or look for another processor. You don’t want to go home and get to work with that much meat with your FoodSaver®️ vacuum sealer.
Having A Bulk Meat Purchase Plan
Without getting all Brian on you and getting into details you don’t need, I’ll cover the plan I use for any meat in the freezer, and you can design your own plan from there.
Obviously, you should have the freezer space to accommodate the meat you’re buying. At least for the meat, you plan to freeze. If you need to buy a freezer, it might be a good idea to do that now, before you buy half a cow or any other bulk meat. I believe the supply of freezers has leveled off a bit, but I know several people that had a very hard time buying freezers last year.
Chest -vs.- Upright Freezers
This is easy – if you have the funds and space for an upright freezer, I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t recommend it over a chest freezer. Food rotation is WAY easier with an upright freezer. I actually pull most of my food out of my chest freezer when adding fresh meat we just bought to replace what we’ve used.
Labeling Your Meat With The Date
Anyone that’s watched my pantry tour video knows I write dates on almost everything. Fresh meat is no exception. Yes, even when dates are clearly already there, I still add my own. I write the date I put it in the freezer – with a big Sharpie®️ marker. This makes it quick and easy when rotating food and picking meat to thaw out for meals.
I generally put the best-buy dates on food in the pantry, but in the freezer, I just use the date I put it in there. You can do either of those or even put the date you need to pull it from the freezer. Whatever works best for you.
Thawing Out Meat
This might seem like common sense but, trust me, there are a lot of people that think the way to thaw out the meat is to drop it in the sink overnight, and it’s ready in the morning.
I know, I know, my mom did it too, and we never got sick from it. My uncle drove like a maniac and never died from a car wreck, but that doesn’t mean I go around driving like him – because it didn’t kill him. I hope you see the flaw in that kind of argument because it drives me crazy.
Here’s My Thawing Meat Process
This is one of those topics that are boring but important. First, my standard disclaimer – I’m an expert at only being me. You should do you and get the advice of a professional if you are unsure of anything at all.
We pull meat from the freezer every two or three days, depending on the size of the cut and how long it might take to thaw in the refrigerator. That’s the proper method of thawing meat, by the way, not in the sink or even the microwave. How often you pull meat will obviously depend on your own situation, I.e. the number of people to feed, how much meat you eat, how long you can stretch the meat, etc.
At Our Home – A Week Of Easy Food Planning
Today just happens to be Sunday, as I write this article. No big deal, it just happens to be the day that I cook (Yes, I do most of the cooking in this house, even though my wife is better at it), for much of the week. I ‘batch cook’ but that has little to do with the topic at hand, but it gives me a good place to start – today.
We eat meat with every meal. We’re on a constant low-carb diet but, again, you do you. I’m hardly qualified to tell anyone else how or what to eat.
Being Sunday, I have a pork loin in the Sous Vide (Aff/Paid Link), a roast in the slow-cooker, and tonight I’ll start my Weber charcoal grill and cook some chicken legs. The chicken will be for today, the roast tomorrow, as well as lunch on Tuesday, and the pork loin will be dinner Tuesday and lunch Wednesday. My wife is off on Thursday and will cook what we pull from the freezer Monday night. Thursday night, I pull meat for the weekend and my batch-cooking session again.
See how that works. It’s planning. It works for us because that’s what we do every week.
We also eat one day a week, usually on Friday, completely from our pantry, including the meat. In other words, we don’t have to plan out our pantry day as far as meat because that’s already stored in a can, jar, or bag.
We eat out, as in a restaurant, rarely, but when we do, it’s generally on a Saturday. Yes, we’re very lively and spontaneous people here. 😉
How Long Will Meat Last In The Freezer?
Freezer Meat Rotation
Remember the dates I just mentioned? That was for the food rotation and all of our food gets rotated. Rotating half a cow gets a little more tricky, but more important than ever. First, we need to understand how long the meat will last in the freezer, right?
Okay, as I said, I’m no expert, and I’m not a big risk-taker, so I have the FDA Refrigerator & Freezer Guide up on one of our refrigerators as a reference. With that said, I’ve gone a lot further than what that guide suggests, but I’m not willing to bet your health on it. You will see below, however, in the FDA notes section that the recommended freezer times are for quality only – not safety.
Because freezing 0° F (-18° C) keeps food safe indefinitely, the following recommended storage times are for quality only.FDA | Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart (March 2018)
From my own personal experience, I don’t necessarily agree that freezing below 0° F keeps food safe indefinitely. I’ve pulled some pretty skanky food from our freezer that I wouldn’t feed to an animal.
You can use the following as a quick reference, but I recommend, that if you’re unsure about how long certain meats stay good in the freezer or refrigerator, print the FDA guide (PDF Link).
Notes from the FDA guide:
These short but safe time limits will help keep refrigerated food at 40° F (4° C) from spoiling or becoming dangerous.
• Since product dates aren’t a guide for the safe use of a product, consult this chart and follow these tips.
• Purchase the product before “sell-by” or expiration dates and get it in the freezer right away.
• Follow handling recommendations on products.
• Keep meat and poultry in its package until just before using it.
• If freezing meat and poultry in its original package for longer than 2 months, over-wrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper; or place the package inside a plastic bag.
• Because freezing at 0° F (-18° C) keeps food safe indefinitely, the following recommended storage times are for quality only.
Maximum Recommended Freezer Times For Meats, Fish, & Poultry
Raw hamburger, stew meats, ground turkey, veal, pork, lamb: 3-4 months
Ham, fully cooked, whole, half, slices: 1-2 months
Bacon: 1 month
Sausage, raw from pork, beef, chicken or turkey Smoked breakfast links, patties: 1-2 months
Steak: 6-12 months
Chops: 4-6 months
Roast: 4-12 months
Variety meats (tongue, kidneys, liver, heart, chitterlings): 3-4 months
Cooked leftovers (meat & meat dishes): 2-3 months
Cooked leftovers (gravy & meat broth): 2-3 months
Cooked leftovers (Fried chicken): 4 months
Cooked leftovers, pieces, plain: 4 months
Cooked leftovers, Pieces covered with broth, gravy (poultry): 6 months
Cooked leftovers, (cooked poultry dishes): 4-6 months
Cooked leftovers, Chicken nuggets, patties: 1-3 months
Cooked leftovers, (cooked fish): 4-6 months
Fresh poultry, whole (chicken or turkey): 1 year
Fresh poultry, parts (chicken or turkey): 9 months
Fresh poultry, giblets: 3-4 months
Fish (lean fish): 6-8 months
Fish (fatty fish: 2-3 months
Fish (smoked fish): 2 months
Shellfish, (fresh shrimp, scallops, crawfish, squid): 3-6 months
Final Point on Freezers For Prepping
Throughout my years of prepping, I’ve run across quite a few ‘preppers’ that consider a freezer some kind of cardinal sin when it comes to prepping because they use electricity. My freezers don’t use electricity. They do but I wanted to see if you were still paying attention. 😁
I respect other people’s views, but that won’t stop me from sharing mine. I believe it’s a mistake to prep only for the worst-case scenarios. If you can’t find chicken, or any other meat for that matter, on the store shelves for a while, you have no worries. If you can even imagine not finding meat on the store shelves. I mean, that’s never happened, right?
By the way, that’s the perfect scenario to disprove the people that say, “I prep for the worst SHTF event, therefore I’m prepared for anything“. Sorry, just not true Sherlock. Maybe someday I’ll get into that myth a little deeper. In an opinion piece, I think, those are always fun.
If the power does go out, either short or long term, I have a plan for that.
Up to this point I’ve been talking about freezing your fresh meats because that’s when food rotation becomes critical. Obviously, you can still home can, dehydrate/dry in the sun or in a sun oven, curate with salt, smoke, ferment, make Biltong, or jerky.
I home-can a lot of meat, as well as purchase commercially packaged meat, freeze-dried meat, and even a little jerky. I rotate all of it.
Wrapping Up Managing Your Bulk Meat Purchase
All we’re talking about here is food rotation but varying times depending on the meat, cut, packaging, and whether it has been cooked. Once you understand how long food can keep in the freezer, it’s just a matter of developing a habit or routine and we’re golden.
Stay safe. Stay prepared.