ChopLocal guide to

Shipping Frozen Meat

Shipping frozen meat can be a great way to increase the sales and customer base for your direct-to-consumer farm or butcher shop. But it can also be intimidating! What kind of cooler or box do you need to ship frozen meat? Should you ship with dry ice? How can you ship frozen meat as cheaply as possible? These are all questions that ChopLocal vendors have asked us, and today, we’re sharing the answers.

In this blog post, you’ll find out:

  • The best boxes for shipping frozen meat
  • How much and what type of coolant to use
  • Special considerations for shipping with dry ice
  • How to pack your cooler to keep the meat frozen
The Best Boxes for Shipping Frozen Meat
In order to keep your meat frozen, you’ll need an insulated box. In hot weather, nothing beats a styrofoam box, but in cooler weather, you may be able to use something different, like a Green Cell Foam liner (made in the Midwest from corn) or a liner made from recycled cotton.

If you’re shipping frozen meat in hot weather:
  • Use a molded styrofoam container.
  • Place the styrofoam container in a tightly fitting cardboard box.

We do not recommend using styrofoam panels inside a cardboard box. The panels generally do not fit tightly at the corners and cold air escapes quickly. These panels may work well in colder weather, but not in the heat.

The Best Coolants for Shipping Frozen Meat
Many people think that shipping frozen meat requires dry ice, but we haven’t found that to be true!

If you are using a molded styrofoam container that is packed correctly, dry ice may not be the best choice. It’s expensive and hard to handle, and in general, we recommend avoiding it if possible.

If you do use dry ice:
  • Avoid air-tight containers. As dry ice “melts” (sublimates), it produces a gas that can build up pressure within the container.
  • Keep your meat separate from the dry ice. If the meat touches the dry ice, it can actually damage the packaging (if vacuum sealed) or the frozen meat itself.
  • Label your package properly. If you are shipping via air, you need to mark the box, indicating how many pounds of dry ice are inside. If you use more than 5.5 lbs of dry ice, you’ll need to use a Class 9 diamond hazard label as well.

So what do we recommend instead of dry ice? Gel packs.

Gel packs stay colder longer than “wet ice” and can be re-used, making them a viable alternative to dry ice. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and we have found them to be incredibly effective in shipping frozen meat.

We also love to use ice blankets from These ice blankets are sent to you “empty” which keeps your costs low. When you receive them, you soak the ice blankets in water and then freeze them. Similarly to ice packs, the “bubbles” contain an additive that keeps the ice blankets colder than regular ice. And as a bonus, you can cut the blankets to the exact size that you need.

The Best Way to Pack your Cooler when Shipping Frozen Meat
You’ve got your box, insulation, coolant and frozen meat. That’s it, right?

Not so fast. The way you pack your box is incredibly important.

Essentially, you want to surround your meat with coolant.

Put coolant on the bottom, place your meat inside, and then place coolant around the sides and top of the meat.

If there is still airspace in the box, fill it!!! Butcher paper, shredded paper, and packing peanuts work well for this.

TL:DR Shipping Frozen Meat
Was that too much detail for you? Here are the main points you need to know when shipping frozen meat:

  • Use a molded styrofoam container inside a cardboard box.
  • Surround your meat with gel packs and ice blankets.
  • Fill any air space in the box.

Have questions about shipping frozen meat that we didn’t answer in this blog post? Comment below and let us know - we’ll respond in the comments, or write another blog post with the answer!

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