Storing Your Wild-Game Meat: What Method is Best?
The Debt We Owe
The meat we hunters harvest does not come free. It is a byproduct of sacrificed time, energy, and sweat. Wild protein is a sacred piece of the adventure we have the privilege of bringing home and sharing with others. Taking special care from the harvest to the freezer is a debt we owe to the life taken.
The act of harvesting has three major components: 1) The actual act of shooting a projectile and killing an animal, 2) Breaking down the animal in the field and getting it home, and 3) Processing the animal to be stored for eating. This article will focus on #3, the storage portion, specifically about preserving.
What Method is Best
One of the final acts of processing your meat is covering it and putting it in the freezer for future consumption. The two-most common ways of wrapping freezer-stored meat is with freezer paper and vacuum sealing it in freezer bags. Have you ever wondered which method is best or why one way might be used over the other? Many hunters have, so we decided to break the two methods down so you can decide for yourself which technique is best for you.
First off, freezer paper and butcher paper are not the same. We hear the two paper types used interchangeably in conversation so we want to clear this up.
Freezer paper is a one-sided poly-coated butcher paper used for storing meat for an extended period in the freezer. The poly coating is a moisture and vapor barrier for protecting your meat from freezer burn and preserving flavor. It is a paper and plastic wrap all rolled up in one.
Butcher paper is simply paper with no poly coating. Some hunters will use uncoated butcher paper and wrap the meat in plastic before wrapping in paper. Essentially this butcher paper plastic wrapping combo achieves the same as the poly-coated freezer paper.
Here are some of the pros and cons to using the freezer paper method.
Vacuum sealing is the process of removing air from packaging. This is accomplished using specialized plastic bags and a machine specifically designed for creating an airtight environment. Two kinds of vacuum sealers exist, the suction sealer and the chamber sealer.
A suction sealer does what its name implies; it sucks the air out of the bag with a pump. A quality suction vacuum sealer can get most, if not all, the air out. Sometimes it can leave a little air in the bag here or there, not a big deal. This still is a much more airtight environment than freezer paper wrapping.
A chamber vacuum sealer does not suck the air out of the bag like a suction sealer. Instead, it pumps all the air out of the chamber (and bag) at once, resulting in a truly airless and airtight seal.
Vacuum sealing is where economics really enters the equation. Not all vacuum sealers are created equal. Plan on investing. Yes, investing because it will pay dividends in the end. Cost for a good unit can be anywhere from $300-$1,000 depending on the unit, features, and type. All too often we hear of hunters purchasing a $150 suction vacuum sealer only to have it last one or two hunting seasons. As we said, invest in a quality unit and it will serve your needs many hunting seasons to come.
Here are some of the pros and cons of vacuum sealing.
Decide What Works for You
A cost-benefit analysis is the process of weighing strengths and weaknesses of certain alternatives. You can use this article to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs for yourself. No single right or wrong answer exists. It is a matter of what works for you in your situation. The most important thing is to take care of that hard-earned meat properly so you can enjoy it throughout the year.