Thursday, October 28, 2010

Preparing to store frozen beef

image Photo: mmmbrooklyn.blogspot.com

When you get that whole beef back from the processor, what are you going to do with it?

It’s all frozen and you want to keep it that way. You are getting nearly 400 lbs of frozen food there. So you have to get a freezer which will hold it all. That top freezer on your home refrigerator isn’t going to cut it. Scope it out at maybe 3 cu.ft. max.

Checking into freezers found a reference on a Sears site page for a 12.1 cu ft upright freezer that will hold 424 lbs. of food. We can fit a whole beef into one freezer (we usually got a half-beef at a time and it would fill up about half a freezer. That freezer is a 14 cu.ft freezer, so the math from Sears above is about right. 

Now, the recommendations are to store beef at 0º F. This is –19º C. This is what enables you to store beef for a year. See this Wikipedia article:

European freezers, and refrigerators with a freezer compartment, have a four star rating system to grade freezers.

  • *  : min temperature = −6 °C (21.2 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 1 week
  • **  : min temperature = −12 °C (10.4 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 1 month
  • ***  : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is 3 months
  • *(***) : min temperature = −18 °C (−0 °F). Maximum storage time for frozen food is up to 12 months

Although both the three and four star ratings specify the same minimum temperature of -18°C, only a four star freezer is intended to be used for freezing fresh food. Three (or fewer) stars are used for frozen food compartments which are only suitable for storing frozen food; introducing fresh food into such a compartment is likely to result in unacceptable temperature rises.

Chest-type freezers are more efficient (the cold air doesn’t drain out when you open the door), but have to be mostly manually defrosted – from Consumer Guide Products:

When evaluating freezers for purchase, you must consider two major factors: space and purpose. If you are planning to use the freezer to store items for several months at a time, and don't need quick access to all of your frozen foods, then a large chest freezer would be appropriate for you. Upright freezers take up as much square footage as a refrigerator would, and they generally afford easy access to all materials. Upright freezers generally cost more than chest freezers and they are less energy efficient. Some upright freezers offer an automatic defrost feature; all chest freezers require manual defrost.

My own use in this is to figure out how I can take two beef to the processor every 2 months and then sell those cuts during that time. Initially, I thought that I’d need a walk-in freezer. But these start out as kits for about $4,000 and I’d only get a large closet. Building it myself would cost as much and take much longer.

Pricing these out shows that uprights are more expensive and less efficient (just more convenient) than a chest-type freezer.

Shelling out a couple hundred for a used freezer to begin with would then hold a single beef.  I could then re-invest the profits in a newer/new freezer so I could deal with 2 beef at once. Otherwise, the profit from the first four beef would go into paying off that walk-in.

Since our farm is setting up to sell 10 steers a year, I can space these out so that we’ll have only one beef a month, but to make this more efficient (less trips to the processor), I’d do two beef per trip, every other month.

Of course, where I could sell one by the quarter/half and the other by the cut, then this would seem to bring the profits and cost into line. Less profits selling by the quarter, but you don’t want to worry yourself half to death with trying to get rid of excess cuts while you are trying to build your clientele.

Thought you’d appreciate these notes about food storage. Now, note that you can get little 3 cu. ft freezers (about the size of your average dorm refrigerator) for less than $300, and that should hold your quarter nicely, plus not take up much room in your house (just don’t put refrigerators or freezers in your un-insulated garage, as they’ll quit on colder days.)

For me, I’ll be looking for a used chest freezer which will fit through our basement door so I can take the next step in making our off-farm beef sales sustainable.

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Now, if you follow that picture above back to mmmbrooklyn.blogspot.com, you’ll find a blow-by-blow account of someone who found 3 other someone’s to help her share a quarter-beef. Worth the read.