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When my family purchases meat from the supermarket, it comes on a non-recyclable plastic foam tray with plastic cling wrap over the top. We can improve on this by purchasing meat elsewhere.

However, we often remove purchased meat from its packaging and cling wrap it into smaller portions for freezing, since it's very difficult to separate once frozen. Using plastic in this way is wasteful and unsustainable, and likely not healthy either.

Reusable plastic containers for freezing portions in won't improve things much, as plastic containers tend to be brittle when frozen and occasionally break. We could possibly use glass containers, however reusable ones often have plastic lids (which also tend to split when frozen), and besides, glass itself becomes quite brittle too (and additionally can be broken by the frozen contents expanding).

I'm not aware of much else that's readily available that we could use to store individual portions of meat. Does anyone have any better alternatives?

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    This strikes me as odd. You buy meat and worry about the wrapping? That is like driving a pickup truck to the store to buy some bio degradable napkins. – Martin Maat Jun 3 '18 at 17:24
  • @MartinMaat Fair point. Maybe someday sustainable meat will become normal though. – Highly Irregular Jun 4 '18 at 9:54
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    Special plastic containers for freezing do not become brittle and break. I have some I've been using for decades and they are still ok. – RedSonja Jul 4 '18 at 14:18
  • Speaking as an ex vegetarian; my partner and I eat lamb, always pasture raised. We want to reduce our plastic consumption by buying it directly from farmers and doing our own butchering. This is both less expensive and less wasteful because we can use the whole animal. Freezer storage is necessary in this case and I don’t want to use freezer plastic bags anymore. I love the idea of leather. Bees wrap was problematic because it’s really hard to wash meat off properly without hot water, which ruins the beeswax coating. – Margaret Jul 23 '18 at 21:33
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You can use Butcher Paper, which is the same material used by many fresh meat counters to wrap your meat. It can be purchased in either white(bleached) or a natural unbleached brown.

The draw back to using butcher paper instead of plastic wraps is that it allows moisture transfer. This is going to result is less of a freezer shelf life for your frozen food. A better option may be to use reusable plastic containers. These are not water permeable so will protect your food from both contamination and freezer burn. It is important to choose the right size packaging as you want to minimize the empty space in the container. While this is plastic so it is not sustainable on its own you can often pick up unused or good condition containers from garage sales that were destined for the landfill otherwise. If you never cook the food in the containers, the containers can last for a really long time.

Of course the most sustainable method is to acquire only as much meat as you will use while it is fresh. This will reduce your energy consumption for keeping the food cold, reduce food waste due to freezer burn, and provide you and your family with healthier and tastier meals.

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I often use a vacuum sealer to seal up food, including meat. I don't know how the freezer shelf life compares to the other answers, but anecdotally I can attest that I've never encountered problems using the stored food several weeks later.

I buy vacuum sealed bags that I can reuse (albeit sometimes I have to cut off a small amount of the plastic to open the bag, but the remainder can be washed and reused when I need to freeze something else. I use a vacuum sealer similar to this one, although I can't remember where I bought mine.

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For sustainable food freezer storage to replace plastic bags and the like, try leather.

You could buy ready-made leather storage bags like these or these if you can source some locally enough, or maybe make your own bags from leather sheets (or recycled leather [which you strip yourself] from used sofas left for pickup on the streets in your nearest suburbia or given away on community recycling networks like Freecycle), like I am planning to do myself for things like bread storage.

Leather's reliable non-permeability (from both air and water) - so long as it is air-tight / water-tight which is possible if you wrap or tie it well enough, in the right way, and so long as it is thick enough leather in question - makes it one of the only all-natural / fairly sustainable replacements to plastic for freezer storage, eliminating freezer burn and allowing just as long-life a storage for your food as plastic does.

It would actually be a fitting solution in your case as the leather is merely a by-product of the meat you are consuming yourself.

And in the case of raw meat I would guess that wrapping the (excess blood-drained) meat a couple of times in natural butcher's paper inside the bag, would solve any hygiene issues with permanent reuse of the bags.

Do note though, depending on the thickness / quality / animal source of the leather etc., it may start to sustain damage (like cracking) from drying out from long-term freezer usage - I have not actually tested it out yet but the precaution to take here is to moisturise the leather in a reliable way - the best way may be applying a solid layer of natural wax (like soy, palm, bees) to the leather surface (and that will only possibly make it even more 'non-permeable', especially in the case of thinner leather).

Another solution may be some sort of air-tight, and heavily-waxed cotton/hemp heavy-duty canvas etc., but I have not tried that either. My goals are to avoid freezer storage altogether but it is great to know of these solutions for those times when you (or others close to you) do have to use it.

  • are you sure that leather can be frozen without taking damage? – drat Jul 16 '14 at 10:36
  • That is a good point, and I will immediately admit, I have not actually tested it out directly yet. And furthermore, there's a difference between testing overnight, and testing it long-term over a period of several months or even years. Luckily, the solution to that appears to be applying natural beeswax or soy/palm wax (etc.) to protect the leather skin from drying out too much and cracking, and once I get round to testing myself I'll endeavour to try to remember to update my answer with my own findings here. I'll update my answer with this now, thanks! – user487 Jul 17 '14 at 22:46
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You could either make your own or buy pre-made beeswax cloth. It behaves like plastic wrap and can be washed with cold water and soap.

Here is a link on how to make your own.

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    I will endeavour to try this out in the nearish future, as I bought a big amount of beeswax recently and likely have the cotton/hemp canvas/cloth necessary for it. Obviously, I'll report back here. Thanks! – user487 Jul 22 '14 at 3:24
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I don’t eat meat but anything I need to freeze, I normally slice it up and keep it in reused glass jars and freeze it . It works perfectly and you end up reusing old glass jars. Although i believe that if you truly worried about sustainability the best think to do is stop contributing to meat and dairy industry .

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Plain old cellophane! Cellophane is biodegradable, water-proof, vapor permiable, available in an elastic form, and can usually be purchased at the same supermarket you buy your meat. Cellophane is by most accounting much more earth-friendly than paper. Incidentally, the "cling wrap" used by your local grocery probably is cellophane. Although I doubt they chose it because of it's very low environmental impact. It's cheaper than butcher paper and lets the consumer see the meat.

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    Cellophane is not waterproof. In fact one of the properties it has is its permeability to moisture makes cellophane the perfect product for this application as cigars must be allowed to "breathe" while in storage - While often meat market/deli plastic wrap is called "Cell-o-fane"(brand) it is in fact usually plastic wrap. – user141 Mar 15 '13 at 18:43
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    And what about this: “the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process used to make viscose…”? – theUg Mar 20 '13 at 22:46

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