Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: July 28, 2022

Vacuum-sealing technology has been around for a long time, and its use has increased in recent years with the popularity of home vacuum-sealers. This technology is advertised to extend the shelf life of meat and other foods.

As an adherent to the carnivore lifestyle, I always look for ways to extend my meat's shelf life. After doing some research, I have determined how vacuum-sealing can prolong the shelf life of your meat.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Vacuum sealing removes air around the food, preventing bacteria from growing and spoiling the food.
  • In most cases, vacuum-sealed meat shelf life is double or triple non-vacuum-packed meat.
  • Vacuum-packaged ground beef and other food items can reduce waste by creating an extended shelf life.

Vacuum-Sealing Basics

Close up of vacuum sealed tuna

The process of vacuum-sealing meat is pretty simple. You just put the meat in a plastic bag, seal it, and then use a vacuum sealer to remove the air from the pack. This creates a tight seal around the meat, which prevents oxygen from getting to it.

Oxygen is one of the critical elements that cause meat to spoil. When oxygen hits meat, it promotes the growth of bacteria that can make you sick.

With vacuum packaging, you are essentially putting it in a controlled environment where it can't be exposed to oxygen.

Other things that affect the shelf life of vacuum-sealed meat include:

  • how fresh the meat is and its pH level
  • using the right temperature in your refrigerator or freezer
  • type of lamination used while sealing
  • marinade in the bag may create ice crystals

Tips For Storing Vacuum-Sealed Meat

Close up shot of vacuum sealed meat

Now that you know the basics of how vacuum-sealing works, here are some tips to help you get the most out of this preservation method:

  1. Vacuum-seal meat that is as fresh as possible. The fresher the meat, the longer it will last in storage.
  2. Store vacuum-sealed meat in the refrigerator or freezer at the proper temperature. The colder the temperature, the slower the growth of bacteria.
  3. Use a high-quality vacuum sealer. Cheaper sealers may not remove all the air from the bag, which could cause the meat inside to spoil faster.
  4. Use a heavy-duty plastic bag. Thin bags are likely to tear, which could expose the meat to oxygen and make it unfit for human consumption.
  5. Vacuum-seal meat in small portions. This will help the meat thaw faster and it will help prevent waste.
  6. Use a food-grade lamination. This will create a stronger seal and prevent oxygen from seeping through the food packaging.

A vacuum seal is a great way to extend the shelf life of your meat. Following these tips ensures that your meat products stay delicious for weeks or even months.

3 Factors that Determine Vacuum-Sealed Meat Shelf Life

Now, let's talk about how vacuum-sealing affects the shelf life of meat. In general, vacuum-sealed meat products will last 2-3 times longer than traditional storage methods.

However, let's look at some specific scenarios.

1. Room Temperature

Vacuum sealed meat on a wooden table

First, fresh meat or fresh fish left out at room temperature will spoil much faster than meat stored in the fridge or freezer. This is because bacteria grow much faster at warmer temperatures, and bacterial growth is one of the prime causes of meat spoilage.

If you were to leave a piece of raw meat on the countertop, it would last no more than two hours before it started to spoil. However, if you vacuum-sealed that same piece of meat and left it on the countertop, the storage time could be up to a day.

That said, the USDA does not recommend storing vacuum-sealed meat at room temperature because there is always a risk of bacteria growth, even with the lack of oxygen. Instead, you should keep your meat in a much colder location.

2. Refrigerator

Raw meat in the fridge will usually last 2-3 days before it spoils. The cold temperature of the refrigerator slows down bacterial growth, which helps raw and vacuum-sealed cooked meat stay fresh.

This shelf life is further expanded by vacuum-sealing. Vacuum-sealed meat stored in the fridge can last up to two weeks before it starts to spoil and cause food poisoning.

This broad time range is due to several factors, but the most critical one is the refrigerator's temperature.

Bacteria grow quickest in the "Danger Zone," between 40°F and 140°F [1]. If your fridge is set to a temperature below 40°F, the bacteria will grow much slower, and the storing method will increase shelf life.

On the other hand, if your fridge is warmer than 40°F, the bacteria will grow faster, and the meat will spoil towards the lower end of the time range.

"Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within 1 to 3 days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to 6 weeks later."
- U.S Food & Drug Administration

3. Freezer

Vacuum sealed meat on a white surface

The freezer is the best place to store vacuum-sealed meat because it will keep the meat fresh for the longest period. You should keep the freezer at 0°F or below for optimal storage [2].

Most bacteria will fail to grow at this temperature, and the meat will be safe for an extended time.

Raw meat stored in the freezer typically lasts six to eight months before it spoils. The frigid temperature of the freezer stops bacterial growth, which gives the meat a longer shelf life.

This shelf life is even longer for vacuum packaging. Vacuum-sealed pork or other frozen meat products can last for two to three years before going bad or getting a freezer burn.

FAQs

How Can You Tell if Vacuum-Sealed Food Is Rotten?

You can tell if vacuum-sealed food is rotten by its scent, color, and texture. A meat product should not smell sour, rancid, or fishy. The color should be uniform and not have any brown or green patches. The consistency should be firm with good elasticity, not mushy.

Is Gray Steak Safe to Eat?

Gray steak is safe to eat. The gray color is due to the lack of oxygen in the properly vacuum-sealed bag and is not an indication of spoilage.

Vacuum-Sealed Meat Shelf-Life

As you can see, vacuum-sealing can significantly impact the shelf life of meat. However, it is essential to remember that this storage method is not a magic bullet. The meat will still go bad eventually if it is not stored correctly.

An alternative to vacuum-sealed meat is having food delivered to your home every month so you do not have to store it for long.

ButcherBox is my favorite subscription service because it offers high-quality, humanely raised meat for a very reasonable price. They also deliver their subscription packages in insulated boxes, perfectly sealed and preserved. You can learn more by clicking here.


References:

  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/refrigeration
  2. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/freezing-and-food-safety

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