How do grocery stores keep meat fresh?

Fresh meat is an essential ingredient in most meals. It’s the best alternative to frozen meat because of its higher nutrient count. When you freeze meat and other foods, they lose some nutrients. This can affect the taste and quality of the meat.

So if you find yourself wondering why your food doesn’t taste as incredible with frozen meat as it does with fresh meat, that’s why. It would be best if you considered switching to fresh meat. But does your favorite grocery store have fresh meat?

While most grocery stores freeze their meat, they also sell freshly cut meat. E.g., Whole Foods MarketSam’s Club and Costco. But even with customers shopping every day, there’s no guarantee that the store would sell out the meat before it spoils. 

So how do grocery stores keep meat fresh all the time?

Let’s find out.

How grocery stores keep meat fresh

1. By cutting what is needed

Most grocery stores that have butchers on standby keep their meat fresh by only cutting or grinding what they need at the time. So unless a customer goes to buy the meat, they won’t cut it. Here’s the reason.

When you cut meat, it spoils faster. This is because the risk of bacteria increases, which decreases the shelf life of the meat. In addition, when you cut meat, you create an opening for bacteria to spread into the middle of the meat. These bacteria break down the cells of the meat.

Man cutting raw meat into small pieces

Since the animal is already dead, the cells in the meat cannot regenerate. So the following process is spoilage if you don’t store the meat properly afterward.

To preserve the meat for much longer after cutting, the grocery store keeps the meat fresh for 14 days. Within that time, they can decide to toss it into the freezer. It becomes frozen meat and can last for 12 months. 

2. By cooling the meat at regulated temperatures

Grocery stores also regulate their freezer temperatures. This ensures that the meat isn’t frozen solid, yet it’s cooled enough to retain freshness. 

The recommended temperatures for cooking meat include:

  • Freezers: 0°F (-17.8°C
  • Refrigerators: 34°F (1.1°C)

Sausage meat in a grocery store freezer

After 10 to 14 days of storage, meat exceeds the Use by date. The Use by date is just like the Best before or expiration date. It is a time duration when a product can be used or consumed. After the Use by date, the product’s quality has declined and is no longer safe for consumption. So we don’t advise buying, cooking, or storing any meat past the Use By date. 

Most grocery stores usually put meat up for sale when the Use by date is close. Some grocery stores throw it away or donate it to food banks. Donating foods past the Use By dates can be dangerous to the health of anyone who consumes it afterward.

If you have to buy such meat, ensure to boil or cook it properly. The heat should kill any bacteria or parasites that could harm you.

3. By using specific tools

Hygiene is vital to keeping meat fresh. This is why most grocery stores use different knives, chopping boards, and grinders for processing meat. 

Man wearing red apron using a meat grinder

Store employees also take preventive measures like washing their hands before touching the meat. They also clean their tools before switching to different meat if they have to use the same tool for cutting or grinding. They do this to reduce bacterial contact with the meat and prevent spoilage.

4. By using Modified Air Packaging (MAP)

Some stores use Modified Air Packaging (MAP) to preserve the meat longer and retain its red color. Usually, when you expose freshly cut meat to natural air, its color gradually changes from healthy red to pale grey. In this case, oxidation has occurred.

Raw red meat resting on a paper bag

Oxidation in foods can discourage customers from buying them. Therefore, the store packages most food items using the MAP process to prevent that from happening. E.g., meat, potato chips, etc.

Using the MAP process, grocery stores replace meat’s natural air with carbon monoxide and other gases. This slows down the color change of the meat and retains the vibrant red color for weeks.

Recommended posts for you: