How much dry ice is required to ship meat via 2-day service? Can gel freezer packs be used to keep meat frozen? The weight of the meat would range from 5 to 20 pounds. Is there a preferred styrofoam container to ship with?

Beef Cattle, Food Safety, Small Meat Processors September 16, 2013|Print

Shipping fresh (not frozen) meat or meat products is never recommended, unless the products are shelf stable (e.g., canned ham, beef jerky).


Regular ice (from water) is not recommended; it can create a lot of water that can leak from your package and does not keep very cold very long. Dry ice is very cold (-109˚F) and keeps things dry, because it turns directly into gas (CO2) as it thaws. Gel freezer packs can work well but may get the product somewhat wet as they thaw. There is a cooling trade-off: dry ice keeps things colder but doesn't last as long. Gel packs don't keep things as cold but last longer. Not all gel packs are the same. If you use gel packs, be sure to use packs rated for 0˚F or colder. You might consider a combination of dry ice and gel packs to get the best of both. Lastly, there are restrictions on the amount of dry ice that can be shipped by air (see DRY ICE NOTES at end).


• Overnight services are the best option for shipping meat. If the meat is packed well — 2-inch thick Styrofoam container packed with newspaper and 15+ pounds of meat — you may not need much ice at all. If you need to ship less than 5 pounds of meat, you should probably ship overnight and use 5 pounds of dry ice (see DRY ICE NOTES at end).

• Two-day service can work: The meat will travel best if vacuum sealed and deep frozen (-10˚F). The more meat, the less ice you'll need, due to the cold thermal mass of the meat. For this same reason, larger volumes of meat are more likely to ship better than smaller volumes, and thus you should consider a minimum order of 5 to 10 pounds.

• Three-day service: Not recommended unless average temperatures outside are below freezing both to where the product is being shipped from and where the product is being shipped to.


Use a Styrofoam box with walls 2 inches thick or more. If using dry ice, do NOT tightly seal the box or the CO2 gas from the dry ice could cause the box to break. It important to pack the box well, filling all space with newspaper and/or cellulose wadding. Packing "peanuts" will not do much to help with insulation. A number of factors can make shipping complicated:

• Season (frozen things ship better in winter).
• Location (shipping to warm places can be problematic if the package sits for too long).
• Times of day shipped and delivered (talk to your shipper about minimizing the time the package sits around).
• Day of week: only ship Monday through Wednesday, so that the product will not sit in a shipping warehouse over the weekend. Contact your customers to see if your methods are working successfully.


1) If shipping by air, you cannot place more than 5 pounds of dry ice in the container.

2) Labeling: The outermost container must be labeled with a hazard class 9 label, UN 1845, and total weight of dry ice in kilograms. (See sample dry ice label below.) The label should be affixed to a vertical side of the box (not the top or bottom) and oriented as in the figure below.

Hazard Class 9 Label, UN 1845


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