I’ve been skeptical of purchasing fresh, pre-packaged meat for a long time now for many reasons such as the use of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, and unnatural feed as well as the general treatment of the animals. My personal preference is to purchase pastured frozen meat from a local farm or at least buy fresh from a local meat shop if I need something special.
My least favorite thing to do is buy meat at a local grocery store in one of those foam and plastic sealed packages. On top of all the other probable issues noted above with the meat, there is also the fact that carbon monoxide can be used to “gas pack” the beef. Similar to food dyes, this additive provides no extra nutrition or flavor, but is simply meant to mask the true condition of the meat for purchase as it can now look bright red and fresh for weeks (instead of graying and exhibiting spoilage).
Carbon monoxide is also used to produce the same effect for seafood. Question regarding the safety of this process has come up in recent years and one report even states that “the presence of CO can cause fish to accumulate dangerous levels of scombrotoxin or histamine and can mask a wide variety of pathogens in meat including E. Coli and Salmonella“.
Unfortunately, this leaves consumers at a serious disadvantage as with pre-packaged meats, we can only look to see if they should be fresh. It’s not until after we purchase the package that it’s possible to open and smell the meat which may help as another indicator of freshness.
This goes to show that farmer’s markets and other local resources make for optimal places to purchase beef (and fish if you live near the ocean). You can get to know the farmer personally and learn about how their particular meat is processed. Often times it is even possible to order large quantities of beef in advance from local farms to stock your freezer so you always have meat on hand and can thaw it out when you need it.
This is another thing to watch for when you buy meat from the store- I’ve noticed a lot lately that the fresh chicken available at my local grocery store is in the process of thawing. This means that it really shouldn’t be frozen again unless it’s cooked. Just one more thing to be aware of if you are purchasing something not to be used right away as freezing it may not be the best option.