Friday, March 1, 2013

The Friday Question: How Do You Store Raw Meat?

Ground turkey packaged straight from the
butcher counter into my Pyrex container.

Although I aspire to being disposable-plastic-free, I am far from there, particularly in the realm of food. But I do try to draw a line somewhere, and the line I have drawn is this: I do not buy meat packaged on styrofoam trays. Not even the organic ground turkey at Costco, even though it is quite a good price for organic ground turkey.

When I decided to stop purchasing meat packaged in styrofoam, I resolved to instead buy ground turkey at the meat counter in Whole Foods, so I could have it packaged in my own reusable glass Pyrex containers. After using the meat, I could just put the Pyrex through the dishwasher and store until my next meat purchase. I could also use them for any other raw meat I bought at Whole Foods.

In the end, I think I used the Pyrex containers for my raw meat purchases from the butcher counter 2 or 3 times total. And then I stopped bringing the Pyrex and just bought my meat packaged in butcher paper.

Because it was all just a little too much of a hassle. Whole Foods is a good 20+ minutes away from me and I only get there once every month or two, which means that I wander through every aisle trying hard not to forget anything, and by the end of the trip my three children are no longer model citizens. And I already had trouble remembering the insulated bag and then prioritizing what would actually go inside so all my expensive refrigerated goods (like meat) would not spoil during the pack up and trip home. And the glass containers are breakable and heavy -- both tough to negotiate with little ones in the cart. So I gave up. Although I do think butcher paper is a big step up from styrofoam trays. (Anyone know exactly what the inside of butcher paper is lined with, by the way?) I never went back to styrofoam trays. And I do buy less meat in general than I used to.

But should I still be taking those empty Pyrex containers to Whole Foods? Is it worth the effort to avoid throwing butcher paper in the trash?* I honestly don't know. But I sometimes find myself wrestling with this question when it comes to making green changes: is the hassle worth the effort? And if I only have a finite amount of effort to try to green our lifestyle, where is the most important place to apply it?

[*Confession: I don't compost. That's one of many reasons why I'm still the Eco-novice.]

So I ask you, Boothers:

  • When you purchase meat, what is it packaged in? 
  • How do you avoid disposable packaging for raw meat? 
  • Are there any green changes you have abandoned because they didn't seem worth the effort?


All Natural Katie said...

Kudos to you for bringing up this topic and taking a glass container with you to Whole Foods. I don't even think about the meat packaging (which bad). I am satisfied that I am buying organic and/or grass fed meats and wild caught fish. I would love to be better with packaging because it is so wasteful.

I do have a good stash of cloth bags that I can use for produce and bulk items, but when it comes to dairy/fish, I end up with plastic. I always put meat/fish packages in a plastic bag because I want to avoid contamination (have you ever seen the meat/fish person wrap the butcher's paper? They don't get a new pair of gloves out). Then, we use the plastic bag to wrap the butcher's paper after cooking and we stick it in the fridge. Yes, so wasteful! However, we avoid the stink that occurs in the trash (we don't produce a lot of trash, so it stays in there for a while).

Lisa said...

I buy local meat and it's already in plastic so not a lot I can do. I will only eat meat if I know where it came from and how it was raised so not a lot of options there. We don't eat a lot of meat though so it's not to much plastic and at least there is no styrofoam.

Robj98168 said...

Honestly, I have to say I don't make much effort in the meat dept. I usually buy my meat from a butcher, but they like to plastic wrap it and the put it in butcher paper. Whole Foods is not an option (Too far away)
But my one advantage is I don't buy meat on styrofoam trays either.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I have the same predicament as Lisa. I buy our meat from a local farmer, and everything comes frozen and wrapped in plastic. To me, it's about personal priorities. My priority is supporting local farmers, but Beth might worry more about the plastic.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I buy local meat that comes vacuum sealed in plastic too -- which I think is much preferred to styrofoam trays. But for the stuff I buy at the meat counter in Whole Foods, I just wonder if I can feel like the butcher paper is good enough, esp. since I thought of and tried a different (better) solution.

And yes, All Natural Katie, I think food safety does trump plastic use. Although at Whole Foods they use a piece of plastic to pick up each chunk of meat (you can see it laying on top of the meat in the Pyrex container), although I'm sure some stuff touches the gloves as well.

Anyone know what butcher paper is made of? Or if you can compost it?

Christy said...

What an excellent question, and one that I have casually wondered about, but not done anything consciously about as you have. Good for you!

However, I have been making the switch to a local butcher for my meats and eggs because they buy local products as much as possible, such as eggs from my own area, which is my line in the sand. A positive side effect is that they don't use plastic or styrofoam. And I'd like to know what they line the butcher paper with also!

Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) said...

I am still trying to make the switch to organic meats so thinking about the packaging is a little too much for me at this point. I try to bring my own containers for bulk items but the options are not abundant here which makes it difficult to change my habits and remember them. I make my bi-monthly trip to Whole Foods and try to bring the containers, but it doesn't always happen. And I am not wrangling my 3 children! Good for you doing it with them!

Anonymous said...

Butcher paper is coated on one side with plastic. You can't compost it, recycle it, or burn it. Walter Jeffries, eco pig-farmer, discusses it here:

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

I suspected as much. Thanks for the link, eatclosetohome.


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