Fresh meat vs frozen meat – what’s your pick?
India is a country of food lovers. People love their meat as much as they love their veggies and spices. The countless number of debates on fresh meat vs frozen meat have been on for ages. There are groups of people who strictly believe in the benefits of one over the other and choose to go with that. Then there is a third group that is okay with either.
The different schools of thoughts come from all the research and readings that have been done over years and have influenced people. Having said that, there is nothing right or wrong here.
Fresh meat vs frozen meat – what is the difference?
Let us first understand at what fresh meat vs frozen meat is, in legal terms.
According to FSSAI, the government regulatory body in India, fresh meat means meat that has not been treated in any way to ensure its preservation while frozen meat refers to chilled meat subjected to freezing in appropriate equipment in such a way that the product attains a temperature of -18° C or lower. Anything that is fresh (if it is truly fresh) should have more nutrition than something that is not.
The older food gets, the more nutrition it loses, but frozen meat can have more nutrition if it is frozen quickly and efficiently, because it decays slower. Fresh food that has been kept longer will have less nutrition than frozen. If handled correctly, frozen meat should be just as good as fresh meat.
Importance of cold chain management during meat delivery
Meat, no matter the kind, is a perishable product with a short shelf life. This is exactly why cold chain management for both fresh meat and frozen meat supply is of paramount importance. Meat is complicated, with the texture and taste varying depending on how the animal was raised, what was it fed, what cut of meat, and if was free of any diseases etc.
The key to quality is not whether the meat is fresh or frozen since things can go wrong in either form. Some changes do occur on freezing, but the impact can be minimised through careful management.
According to a food and nutrition research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “the nutrients in the meat products are not destroyed by the freezing process, and there is little change in nutrient value during freezer storage.”
In other words, the nutritional value of frozen meat and fresh meat is identical and so is the taste! The key is to freeze as fast as possible and thaw as slow as possible. It is a simple concept, but as a consumer it is hard to know.
Everything that looks perfect comes with its own set of troubleshoots. Talking of frozen meat, maintaining appropriate temperature is very crucial. One must make sure that the products are consistently stored at 0 degrees F. In case the temperature varies, bacterial growth will eventually degrade the nutritional value of the meat.
Also, many believe that freezing the meat in their refrigerators is enough to arrest the growth of bacteria, but that is not true! Home freezing is not powerful enough to kill the bacteria, which is why they must be consumed at the earliest.
If your food was nutritious before it was frozen, it will still be nutritious after. It is widely believed that there is a huge difference between the texture of defrosted meat and fresh meat. The truth is, this is only the case because most people have been thawing their meat wrong! If meat is blast frozen and properly thawed there should be no compromise of quality, texture or taste.
Are you thawing your meat right?
There are four main thawing methods- at room temperature, using a microwave, defrost in tap water, or thaw in the refrigerator. While methods 1-3 are most used, the safest and best way to retain the taste and freshness of the meat is to thaw it in the refrigerator, as the low temperature can effectively prevent the growth of bacteria.
One also runs the risk of overcooking the outer part and undercooking the centre if the meat is not properly thawed. We must make sure not to leave meat at room temperature for too long. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria and could cause someone to get sick.
In the age of convenience, where fresh food is always a delight, frozen foods are almost necessary. Now you can come home late from a busy day at the office and grill up frozen meats in no time. Everyone these days is highly health conscious and aware of what they are consuming. The quality of food is always the first preference.
FSSAI has also issued a general guidance to the meat Industry to ensure that critical food safety related aspects are addressed during the entire supply chain from slaughtering, processing till retail.
It has also made it mandatory for every food business operator to obtain the license that will certify the food quality as per Food Safety and Standard Regulations. This gives a satisfactory stamp to the products available in the markets and makes it easy for consumers to choose.
In other words, “fresh meat vs frozen meat?” is the wrong question. Instead, the more important question is: Are you getting enough produce and lean proteins that are not compromised on nutrients and quality? At the end, it is on each one to decide as to what is better, keeping in mind the requirements, and nutritional value of the meat as their topmost priority.