Living Their Shelf Lives to Their Fullest
A Guide to Understanding the Shelf Life of Bare Bones’ Meats and Perishable Foods
It is hands down the most common question we receive when helping customers place an order: “How long will it keep?”
Talk about a loaded question.
Unlike most commercial supermarkets and large-scale grocery stores, all of the meats and perishable items that we carry at Bare Bones Butcher contain none of that added junk that artificially prolongs the lifespan of your food.
So, when you’re used to purchasing foods that boast extended timelines due to the preservatives with which they’re produced, the switch to a natural, local food source —particularly one that wraps 90% of their product in nondescript butcher paper — can make things confusing. Without those “official” USDA labels on your refrigerated products, the questions and uncertainty about their expiration can pop up quickly.
So, when do you need to eat all that meat? We’ll get into that.
But before we dive into the nuts and bolts of when to cook this, and when to freeze that, let’s first talk about your storage plan.
1. WHERE ARE YOU STORING YOUR PRODUCT?
“The best place to store meat is in the coldest part of your fridge,” says BBB owner and butcher Wesley Adams. “The drawers — like, the crisper or the deli drawer —create a humid environment that causes the meat to turn more quickly, so you want to avoid those.” That being said, typically the center of your fridge is the coldest and driest spot; store meats there to ensure the longest timeline possible.
1. HOW ARE YOU STORING YOUR PRODUCT?
If you’ve ordered meats from Bare Bones in the past, you’ve likely noticed our two-ply paper: one side is regular, the other side is wax. Wrapping meats against the waxy surface helps to keep the juices in, and keeps external moisture out. Called freezer paper, this stuff does excellent preservation work, so we recommend simply storing your products in the packaging we’ve provided. (And with a name like freezer paper you betcha you can use it in the freezer*, too!) Of course, if you prefer to rewrap it in plastic wrap or a Ziplock bag, that’s fine too — it’s just not super fine for the environment is all.
REMEMBER: The way in which your products are stored can have a major impact on the length of their survival.
Now that we know your storage won’t be hindering your meat from living its [shelf] life to its fullest, let’s discuss the average shelf lifespan of meat products here at Bare Bones Butcher.
To fully comprehend the timeline on your meat, you must first understand the schedule by which we receive it.
Think about it: we’re a small, whole animal butcher shop operating with a staff of five to seven humans. We aren’t getting pallets of meat delivered on 18-wheelers every day; we receive animals once per week, and what we get in is what we have to sell until the following week.
It goes like this…
Our chicken farmer delivers chickens to the shop every single Wednesday night at closing time. These chickens have a shelf-life of 7 days. So with that in mind, if you have one of our chickens in your refrigerator on a Wednesday, that means times almost up: you need to cook it or freeze it, pronto. See, since new chickens don’t arrive until after we’re already finished with the day’s orders, even if you picked up a chicken from us on Wednesday, it’s guaranteed to be last week’s chicken. You better roast that bird up, quick!
The same goes for our fresh sausages. New sausages are put into production every Wednesday so they can be ready to roll out on Thursday. This means that the sausages available for sale on Wednesday are on day 7 of their lifetime, so they need to be consumed or preserved within the next 24 hours. Cook them or freeze them tonight.
Dry aged meats like beef and lamb can withstand slightly longer shelf lives since the dry aging process removes some of their moisture, but beef, lamb, and pork are all cut to order in our shop, which means you have between 5 and 7 days on them. If you’ve passed day 7 and you’re just not sure? The sniff test is always a good rule of thumb.
With more surface area and therefore the ability to oxidize quickly, ground meats like ground beef and ground pork have a shorter lifespan than cuts like steaks and chops and can only last about 5 days, as opposed to 7. For this reason, we grind meat fresh on the daily. So when you pick it up from us, you’ve got 4 days at the least to keep it in your fridge.
Yes, it can seem complicated, but we want to make it easy for you!
BELOW IS AN EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND CHART THAT WILL TELL YOU MOST EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.
*A Note About Freezing: Regular, weekly shopping is a far better course of action than mass-purchasing and mass-freezing. Not only does your hoarding-style behavior ultimately short your neighbor from the ability to purchase what they need (if you buy it all, what’s left for them?) but the act of freezing high-quality meat such as ours inevitably leads to shorting yourself. See, thawing frozen meat leaves the product devoid of moisture, which leaves you with a dryer product. So why go to all that trouble — and all that expense — of buying so much at once just to make both yourself and your neighbors suffer? Weekly buying is not only more sustainable from a farming perspective, but it’s better from an economical standpoint, too.
*A Caveat to The Note About Freezing: Of course there are times when freezing makes sense — like, when you need to prolong the lifespan of something on the brink of expiration; when you’ve made a triple batch of beef bolognese in anticipation of a quick and easy meal someday down the road; or when you have an equally normal and mundane “I need to save this” excuse, freezing is excellent. But within the framework of “stocking up,” it isn’t always the best move.