Remember the old days when you would accompany your mother to the butcher shop to buy fresh cuts of meat for the family’s dinner? Every town, it seems, had a local butcher who knew everything there was to know about beef, pork, chicken, veal, and any other meaty delight he had for sale. He’d sell you the best steaks, the juiciest pork shops, and the ideal chicken for frying. He was the expert!
My, how things have changed! Today, most people purchase their meat at the supermarket from vast cases full of pre-packaged choices. Occasionally, the butcher will appear if you request a special cut or some other service that requires his attention. Otherwise, there’s rarely a connection between customer and butcher.
Other carnivorous shoppers choose yet another way to purchase their favorite steaks, chops, and other meats. They order them through the internet. Ordering meat online has become more and more common during the past decade now that many individuals turn to the internet for all kinds of shopping. And while some people still prefer the traditional shopping experience when it comes to food, many have decided that this is a good way to have fresh, tasty meat and other foods delivered to their front door with little or no hassle.
Is it Safe?
If you’ve never ordered meat online before, you’ll probably have some questions about where to go, what to purchase, and whether or not internet-sold meat products are a good gamble for you and your family. And rightfully so! You’ll want to make sure that what you order is not only available at a good price but, most importantly, you’ll want to know if ordering meat in this manner is safe and won’t make you or your family sick.
The USDA estimates that Americans order nearly $6 billion in food over the internet just at the December holiday season. The rest of the year accounts for several additional billions. Many of these food items are perishable, such as meat. Individuals order meat for themselves or as gifts for friends or loved ones.
So, how do you know whether the meat will be good when it arrives at your door or the door of the recipient? First of all, it’s best to start by choosing a reputable company for your purchase. You’ll recognize some names, such as Omaha Steaks, from their extensive advertising campaigns. Others won’t be so familiar. Don’t hesitate to use the internet to search for feedback on any company from which you are considering placing an order. Bad feedback makes the rounds quickly, so if it’s there, you’ll probably find it. In addition, you can check the Direct Marketing Association website for a list of reliable internet food sellers. (www.dmachoice.org)
Once you’ve chosen a company for ordering meat online, ask them how they package their meat for shipment. Meat should always be shipped cold or frozen and should be packed along with some sort of cold source, like dry ice or gel freezer packs in order to maintain its temperature. The company should also use a foam box or very heavy corrugated cardboard box to ship the meat.
Most of the time, meat shipped from reputable companies is ‘flash frozen’ and then packaged promptly and shipped. This is the most desired process for shipping meat. If you can’t find specific shipping information on the internet, feel free to make a call along with your first order and ask the company representative to describe their freezing and shipping process and be sure it meets all safety requirements.
When the meat arrives at your door, open it immediately and make sure it is still frozen or very cold to the touch, with visible ice crystals on top. If it meets these parameters, freeze or refrigerate the contents immediately. If it’s warm, don’t refrigerate it and above all don’t eat it! Call the company about the problem and, if they’re reputable, they’ll immediately agree to send you a replacement or refund your money.
Ordering meat online means you’re probably going to pay a higher price than if you purchased it in a store. That’s because they’re often offering prime cuts. You can sometimes expect to pay up to $20 per steak for perhaps a ‘special reserve’ filet mignon or similar cut. You’ll also need to figure in the shipping costs, which can be fairly high because quick shipping means fresh meat.’
But if you’re looking for good deals you can find them too. Many companies that offer meat online sell in large quantities or in ‘packages’. These packages might include, for example, multiple steaks of different cuts along with burgers, franks, chops, and sometimes even seafood. These assortments might also include side dishes, like baked stuffed potatoes or a tray of potatoes au gratin. That means you’ll just need to add vegetables in order to have a full meal to serve your family. These packages are usually a good value as long as you have space to store all the food that you’ll get with your order.
Some companies even offer appetizers and dessert so that you’ll have everything you need delivered to your door with no need to make a trek to the grocery store, bakery, or other retail establishment. Again, the prices may be a little higher than you’re accustomed to paying, but remember that ordering meat and other food online is all about convenience.