How to Ship Meat Using Reusable Gel Ice Packs
Here's How to Pack & Ship When You Need To Ship Meat Using Gel Ice Packs as the Cold Source
Steps for Shipping Frozen Meat with Gel Ice Packs as the Cooling Source:
Step #1 - Move Your Cuts of Meat (brand-packaged or not) to a Cold Room or Other Temperature-controlled Area
In preparing to pack your insulated shipping cooler box kit full of meat products, it is always a bad idea to assemble your packaging in a warm location. Extend the shelf life of your product and lengthen the effectiveness of your shipping package by putting everything together in a temperature-controlled area.
Step #2 – Position EPS Foam Cooler & Corrugated Outer Box Same Area as Meat
The foam cooler (people call it Styrofoam, but it's really EPS) needs to be clean and sanitary along with all the other items in your cold packaging supplies checklist.
Step #3 - Gather Gel Ice Packs or Whatever Mix of Refrigerants Will Go With Them
Your cooling sources begin warming immediately upon being exposed to hotter ambient temperatures, so moving them quickly to whatever Cool Room or packaging area they'll be using will improve the thermal integrity of your package since the coolant will remain at a proper temperature before being boxed up.
Step #4 - Grab Remaining Insulated Shipping Supplies like Wrapping, Tape, and Labels
.To finish putting together your frozen meat shipping box, you will need the following:
- Heavy-duty Plastic or Plastic Bag Wrapping, with a 2mm-Thickness
- Foam Packing Peanuts, Filler Paper, or other Dunnage to fill empty space and provide cushioning
- Heavy-duty Packaging Tape, 2" wide minimum
- Heavy-duty Plastic or Plastic Bag Wrapping, with a 2mm-Thickness
- Moisture-absorbing Paddi - Heavy-duty Plastic or Plastic Bag Wrapping, with a 2mm-Thicknessng or Soaking Material to deal with any wetness
- Temperature Tracker or Data Logger for keeping a record of temperature fluctuations
- FedEx, UPS, USPS, or other Shipping Carrier Labels and required Regulatory Labels
- Carrier Shipping Label
- Hazardous Material Label (if required)
- UN1845 Dry Ice Shipping Label (when needed) as shown here.**URL INSERT** You'll need permanent markings on the outer packaging, including:
Verify with your shipping carrier if there are any special requirements for your operation.
Step #5 – Use 2mm Plastic to Wrap the Frozen Meat in a Heavy-duty Layer
Secure the plastic wrapped by closing the top in your fist and twisting the package to spin it until the hand-held portion is tightly twisted and almost all air has been squeezed out. Tie and secure the twisted portion and use any zip ties or clips to finish the job.
Step #6 – Use Wetness-absorbing Pads or other Materials to line the bottom of the Styrofoam Shipper
Condensation and wetness are common in ice-cold shipments, so place a pad along the floor of the cooler and in between multiple bags of meat if you're adding more than one to the insulated shipping box.
Step #7 – Add Your Cooling Source (Cold Packs) exclusively, or combined with Dry Ice*
After the meat is secure, you can add more Cooling Sources to fit around its sides and on top before putting in any more filler to take up the remaining empty cubic footage. When you put in the Dry Ice, Gel Packs, or combination of refrigerants, make sure there's enough to basically cocoon the meat to keep out heat.
Step #8 – Place Data Loggers or Trackers Where Practical
Many companies use temperature-tracking units, strips, and electronic mearing devices to monitor any changes in temperature along the path of transit and waiting locations. This enables businesses to maximize product quality and shelf life. This results in higher customer satisfaction and a better bottom line.
Step #9 - Use a 2" (or wider) Heavy-duty Packaging Tape for Sealing the Insulated Shipper
Wrap all sides of the cooler lid (top) to seal it to the cooler bucket (bottom portion) so that no outside air can sneak inside during package handling and transit. You'll next use the tape for the outer box.
Step #10 - Put Your Shipping Cooler Snuggly Inside the Cardboard Box and Tape Tightly Shut.
Your corrugated shipping box should fit your Styrofoam Shipping Cooler with snugness. If, however, the shipping box is large enough to hold multiple smaller cooler boxes inside for combined purchases, fill any leftover space.
Step #11 – Using the 2" (or more) Wide Packing Tape, Secure the Outer Cardboard Box Shut on All Sides
Taping the exterior cardboard box should be done in an 'H Pattern' for extra security to ensure nothing comes undone.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: If shipping with Dry Ice (even when combined with Gel Packs), do not create an airtight seal on either the interior Styrofoam Cooler or the Outer Box - leave a way for expanding CO2 gases to escape as the frozen Carbon Dioxide evaporates (sublimates) from a solid to a gas. You can add extra layers of tape in whatever way increases package security to compensate for those areas where you allow venting to occur.
Step #12 – Finish by Applying Labels and Markings to the Outer
Your package is ready once all labels and markings have been applied, and you can have it picked up or taken to your preferred delivery vendor.
Why Use Gel Packs When Shipping Meat
Gel Ice Packs are very popular among meat shippers who sell portable boxes of less bulky meats and who don't sell to customers who want massive sides of beef or large bulk shipments that will sit in warehouses for days or weeks.
A Gel Ice Pack is a sturdy bag filled with a space-age gel or water-gel formula that can be solidly frozen to very low temperatures and maintains its cold temperature longer than simple water ice.
Being superior to ice alone, they are used by many thousands of companies globally to keep perishable shipments within either frozen or refrigerated temperature ranges (and out of the danger zone) until the packages are delivered and opened by the recipient.
Gel Ice Packs are the backbone of insulated perishables shipping thanks to their widespread availability, reusability, lower overall costs, and ease of use compared to Dry Ice, which comes with safety concerns (for shippers and recipients) as well as government and shipping carrier regulations.
'Gel Packs' as they are commonly called, make insulated shipping much easier and faster to do since they require no special labeling or handling and need only be frozen or cooled to the appropriate temperature necessary to maintain the correct internal range of the package for the duration of its journey.
Since so many products would be badly damaged using Dry Ice's extreme cold, the safer choice for them is Gel Ice Packs that can be frozen to below zero Celsius and can maintain packages at around 2° to 8° Celsius and can be adjusted to refrigerated ranges above freezing yet safely out of the danger zone.
Gel Ice Packs are best for products that do not need to stay deep-frozen for extended periods of time and do not need to arrive in a state of 'hard frozen' after days on the road.
A large side of beef, for example, that needs to travel for days yet arrives as hard-frozen as a rock might be better off with Dry Ice, which, although it evaporates at a high rate and has safety and packaging regulations to adhere to, operates at a much lower temperature.
If a frozen product only needs to stay that way overnight or express shipping, then Gel Ice Packs might be the answer. Many shippers use a combination of Gel Ice Packs and Dry Ice to get the exact results they want, even with large volume packages.
Package test shipping helps companies determine which option (or combination of both) is best for each company's unique scenarios. This method also lets shipping managers and employees know exactly how many Gel Ice Packs should go in each package and what temperature they should be lowered to before package assembly. *
Non-toxic and biodegradable Gel Ice Packs to not evaporate like Dry Ice and when properly manufactured, can be used repeatedly by both the business and their customers.
Freezing time for Gel Ice Packs ranges from just a few hours for individual units to weeks for massive pallet-volume amounts, depending on the size, quality, and type of freezer cooling unit used.
How Long Will Gel Ice Pack Refrigerants Last in a Styrofoam Cooler when Shipping Food? How many Gel Ice Packs will I need to ship my frozen meat?
Obviously, Gel Packs stay cold and useful much longer than Wet Ice and do not drip all over the place as they very slowly thaw to be re-used for shipping or other purposes.
The amount of gel ice packs you'll need depends on how much product you're shipping, the size and wall thickness of the shipping cooler you're using, and the estimated distance and duration of shipping times.
However, if you're using gel ice packs, it is recommended that you use roughly 1 pound of gel ice packs for every cubic foot in the container every 24 hours (1 day).
For instance, say your container measures out to be four cubic feet, and it will take two days to transport your shipment of seafood.
1 pound of gel ice packs x 4 cubic feet x 1 day (2) = 8
Accuracy in live testing package arrangements will prevent product damage from too few units and wasted profits from including too many.
When you have shipping deadlines as short as 'Same Day' and 'Overnight,' most meat shippers can get their products to customers in short order with no need to maintain a hard deep freeze since the customer will take possession before any significant temperature rise or ice melt. If there's any question about whether Dry Ice or Gel Packs are the answer for your desired configuration, shipping tests provide the answer.