Raw feeding really isn’t possible without some kind of freezer. Whether you feed less than a pound a day or you feed 25+ pounds per day you need a freezer to keep a good variety of meat, bones and organs available for rotation as we all know that variety is KEY with a good well rounded prey model raw diet. Where to start? Well, I’m writing this to save you lots of /facepalms….that I’ve had the pleasure of doing myself.
Figure out how much space is needed for storage, short term and long term if needed. This will be mostly influenced by how much you feed per day. Let’s pick a good round number like 5 pounds per day for an example, which would mean ~150 pounds per month. Based on experience of feeding 3 times that per day (LOL) its a great thing to have things stocked well for a good rotational diet. That in mind I recommend having enough freezer space to get you by for several months, which would mean for our example of 5 pounds per day, that a 28 cubic foot freezer would be ideal, or several smaller ones to accommodate all that grub. This also makes bulk orders possible for better deals on meat!
If you’re feeding a lot less than that per day, then you may consider getting a regular fridge/freezer combo that you can use for long term storage (freezer) and short term/thawing space (fridge) as your option. It’s nice to have a fridge to thaw things out as it takes longer, and you can keep several things thawed at once without them going bad.
And if you’re a stereotypical raw feeder you’ll NEVER have enough freezer space and you’ll think to yourself…..when will I ever have enough freezers? NEVER /facepalm
What kind of freezer you’ll want for your daily and long term needs. I have four freezers for our needs. I have three “long” term storage freezers (one stand up and two chest) and one daily user, an upright. I stock my daily use freezer once every few weeks with a good rotation of what I have available so I have my variety planned out roughly for the next few weeks. Once my daily freezer is empty I restock it from the long term storage freezers.
For daily use freezers I would recommend upright, standing one as they’re easier to pull things from. The downside to upright freezers is that they cannot hold as much stuff because meat has to be stacked on shelves or it’ll fall out. Chest freezers you can jam pack full of meat (well, this is NOT true and I’ll go over this below) without it falling out. Chest freezers are great for long term storage because they hold a TON! Here’s a rough estimate for chest freezers taken from a previous PMR post:
28 cu. ft. of freezer space for ~500 lbs. of meat
14 cu. ft. of freezer space for ~250 lbs. of meat
7 c u. ft. of freezer space for ~125 lbs. of meat
How best to organize your chest freezer for ease of finding things. This is a true case of “do as I say and not as I do” as I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons when it comes to my freezers. The memory of us having to thaw out an ENTIRE freezer packed full of meat frozen, wedged together is still pretty painful and fresh! We had a huge delivery made of meat from our co op that was delivered in plastic bags. When it arrived it was partially thawed out, but we figured it would be fine just to stick in the chest freezer…NOT. When I went to grab one bag of beef from that chest freezer to stock my daily user…it was stuck. Come to find out ALL the bags of meat were stuck together. We had to thaw out the WHOLE freezer full of meat just to get it apart which took several days of running a heater on it all. /facepalm
You may find yourself compelled to just dump meat at random into your chest freezers. Pretty much all raw feeders have done this if they have chest freezers because well….we hoard meat and need to put it all someplace. This makes for getting the meat back out troublesome as you lose track of what is where and you have to dig which requires a coat and thermal gloves if you don’t want to suffer frost bite! Do yourself a favor and organize in the first place. In the long run it’ll save you a ton of time and energy.
For chest freezers I would recommend having “columns” of meat types if possible. That way certain sections of your freezer are the same meat type from top to bottom. This makes it easy as you just grab off the top rather than having to dig to find what you want.
DO NOT put thawed or partially thawed meat that is stored in bags in freezers just haphazardly or they’ll stick and you’ll end up thawing your whole freezer out like I did. This is also not a good idea because you want free air flow around your meat so that it freezes quickly and thoroughly. It can take several days for lots of meat to fully freeze so keep that in mind when packing larger quantities of meat into a freezer. If I have a mostly empty freezer and I’m packing it full of meat stored in bags I use plastic lids to separate my bags in layers so that they lift easily off.
DO NOT put bags of meat on grated or slotted shelves in a freezer either. Yes, this is common sense but even I have made that mistake and I’d like to think I’m of average intelligence. If you do this there is a strong chance that the bag will slip down between the metal and freeze solid. That means you have to remove the whole shelf to thaw that particular bag of meat. Like I said….common sense. /facepalm
How to find the ideal freezer. Craigslist, if you’re on the planet Earth. You’d be surprised how many people have freezers for sale on there, or even for free. Three of our four came off of craigslist for free or cheap. But you have to double check the freezer for important things like seals, compressors and the basic fact of whether they work or not before committing to taking it.
1. Seals or gaskets. Torn or weathered ones are common with used freezers. But they’re typically pretty cheap to replace so if the unit is super cheap or free, then it may be worth it to just replace it as they’re relatively inexpensive.
2. Thermostat. If the unit doesn’t have one I would take one and see how cold it really gets. This will help determine if its worth the investment or not. Sure….if you ask the seller to plug it in to see if it works it’ll feel cold…but is it cold enough?
3. Cleanliness. How clean and well maintained does the unit seem to be? Typically the better they look the better they run…but this doesn’t mean if you run across a pristine freezer that it’ll run well. Check the floor around the unit if it happens to be in the same space it’s been stored for a long time, as the floor might indicate leaks…which would indicate that it doesn’t work well. Be weary if the seller says they’ve got it all moved and ready to go! As they may have done this to prevent you from seeing where the freezer lived for years past.
4. Location. Obviously if you have to drive 100+ miles and rent a U-Haul it may not be worth it.
5. Age. Sometimes things made eons ago work better than new things but efficiency is key as well as it DOES add up to run a bunch of freezers that DOES go into your “food” bill every month with energy costs. Keep that in mind.
Where to put these freezers. Ideally you want them inside out of the weather. BUT most freezers are pretty bombproof. We stored one outside for about a year through rain, shine, snow, etc without issue. You just want to make sure any freezers stored outside are up on some kind of base so they don’t get waterlogged. We stored our chest freezer up on cinder blocks that kept it about 6 inches off the ground on the side of the house it was most protected from the weather but it did just fine. If you don’t have a lot of extra room in an apartment, garage, house, etc outside might be a feasible option. I do know of someone who used a chest freezer as a dinner table for a while!
Here are our freezers and as you can see we didn’t do our homework with buying ours because A) there’s cinder blocks on both of our chest freezers to hold the seals B) there’s a tie down wrapped around one of our uprights to hold it shut. Do your homework about freezers and it’ll save you tons of time and energy! I’m sure there’s more I could talk about with freezers but so far so good!