A Guide to Shipping Meat

Best practices for shipping fresh and frozen meat, and recommended insulated packaging materials.

When it comes to shipping meat, having a reliable, effective method of temperature control is essential.

From the moment the product leaves your premises, all the way through to delivery at your customer’s home, warehouse or retail store, the temperature of your meat shipment must be kept within a specified temperature range to prevent products from spoiling.

We will go on to explore the intricacies of how to ship frozen meat: why temperature control is essential; effective insulated packaging methods; how to keep your meat shipments cold; transit durations and shipping costs.  If you’re wondering how to ship meat, this article should answer any questions you might have.

Why temperature control is important for meat shipping

Perishable meat and poultry must be kept colder than 40° F at all times in order to prevent the rapid growth of bacteria. Maintaining a cold temperature restricts the growth of microorganisms that can cause illnesses when ingested. Keeping meat frozen limits the growth of bacteria and microbes, making it a suitable option for the storage of such products.

Utilize an effective insulation system

Meat products being shipped inside a PopupLiner Box Liner

When it comes to keeping your shipments cold, it is important to package your products using the right meat packaging supplies. We recommend using insulated box liners, which provide numerous advantages over other forms of temperature-control packaging, such as molded coolers.

Insulated liners, such as our PopupLiner Box Liner, are reflective, foam box inserts that provide high-performance temperature control and can be fitted inside a corrugated box and loaded with goods in seconds. These custom liners are particularly effective in that they provide both reflective and conductive insulation. Relative to other temp-control packaging, reflective box liners are extremely compact and space-efficient, freeing up valuable space and labor in your warehouse.

Keeping it cool

Once you have a solution in place for keeping ambient heat safely out of your packages while shipping frozen meat, you must consider the refrigerants that might be required to keep your shipment cold for the required transit duration. Your options here are cold packs and/or dry ice. The quantity required will depend on the following:

  • Weight of meat being shipped
  • Caliber of the insulation
  • Ambient temperatures
  • Transit duration

Cold packs help to keep your meat shipments colder for longer

When shipping fresh, refrigerated meat, cold packs can be used instead of dry ice inside your meat packaging boxes. Doing so allows you to avoid the hassle of handling a hazardous material, and the labelling requirements that come with it. However, it is important to note that cold packs will not keep frozen meat frozen and as a rule of thumb, the refrigerant you use must be colder than the payload. Because of this, cold packs are best suited for shipping fresh meats.

When designing a shipping protocol and pack-out, it’s ideal to perform a test shipment with cold packs to identify how many packs, and how many ounces per pack, will be required to keep your shipments sufficiently cold. Some considerations to make include the available space for the cold packs and the goods, as well as the thickness of the insulation panels themselves.

You should keep in mind that there are limitations to the usage of dry ice. Once the weight of dry ice used exceeds a certain level, the package can be hazardous.

Dry ice, when used with a high-performance foam insulator such as the PopupLiner and EcoLiner products, is an excellent choice for frozen meats. The general rule of thumb for performance is that if the dry ice is adjacent to the frozen meat, as long as there is some dry ice, the meat is usually frozen. This rule can be used to determine the appropriate weight of dry ice used in a shipping pack-out by measuring the sublimation rate while it is packaged inside your insulation of choice (thicker insulation typically provides greater longevity and slower sublimation.)

At IPC, we can perform this analysis for you in our in-house performance-testing facility to ensure your meat products remain below 40° F at all times.

Test shipments using temperature probes, packaged within your own premises, are the surest way of guaranteeing performance and developing the best protocol for shipping at the required temperatures.

Efficient shipments

With overnight or second-day shipments, we recommend first determining the shipping fees for your packages for a variety of weight scenarios by discussing your requirements with various shipping companies. If you are projecting substantial shipping volumes, you can expect to negotiate your fees for transport. Knowing this when you enter the discussion can result in substantial savings.

If your clients do not require overnight shipping, the question you should be asking to find the most cost-efficient shipping process is: ‘What is the slowest I can ship products to their destination, while still guaranteeing safe arrival?

Many meat shipping businesses assume that shipments must be delivered overnight to keep products safe. However, it is important to consider that two-day shipments are significantly cheaper, and might be suitable for your requirements. Reducing the cost borne by your customers can add to your bottom line and if passed on to your end users, makes you a more competitive provider.

The art of performing this work is to achieve the perfect balance that allows you ship your products at the right temperature, while using insulation products that help you use the least amount (weight) of refrigerant products, thus lowering your net shipping cost.

The guidance we have provided applies to all meat supplier businesses, whether you are a mail order meat company, a retail wholesaler, or something else.  If you would like more specific advice relating your business requirements, get in touch with our team as we’ll do our best to help.

IPC can provide custom insulated shipping solutions to all types of meat businesses. Whether you are sending small packages to consumers, or bulk shipments to business customers, our experienced team helps you to do it efficiently and cheaply. Get in touch today for a custom quote.

Related Products

PopupLiner Box Liner

Our insulated box liners are thermal liners that effectively protect your meat shipments for up to 72 hours.

How to Ship Frozen Meat
EcoLiner Box Liner

Made of green, recyclable materials, the EcoLiner box liner features a space-saving design and is effective for more than 48 hours.

Insulated Shipping

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