Safety of Ordering Meat Online

Can I Safely Order Meat Online For Delivery In Australia?

With lots of butcheries and services delivering meat & seafood across Australia, it can be very tempting to make life a little easier and have your weekly/monthly shop arrive straight to your front door.

However, we all know the risks if meat sits in warm temperatures for too long. The convenience factor of meat deliveries are certainly lost if that meat isn’t safe to eat.

Thankfully, the Australian food standards agency provide guidelines on how meat should be delivered. These guidelines are followed by most delivery services, and allow us to check that we’re buying from compliant sources.

The Benefits of Buying Meat Online

Getting meat delivered to your door has a number of advantages over your traditional weekly supermarket shops. With the proliferation of online butcheries and subscription services, there are plenty of places offering cost-effective meat delivery in Australia.

I’ll share my own view of the 2 biggest benefits.

Choose From A Wide Variety Of Cuts & Types

Online delivery services offer a wide variety of options when it comes to cuts and types of meat, which is often far greater than a traditional local supermarket.

This means you can go adventurous and try different meats. It was an online subscription where I first tried (and fell in love with) Osso Bucco which are veal shanks.

If you’re living in a more rural location where there’s even less availability, online stores can open up a whole new world of meats to enjoy on a regular basis. It’s really easy to check out multiple suppliers and find a store that best suits the meats you’re looking for.

Choose The Best Quality Meat You Can Afford

Spend a few minutes in the meat aisle at Coles or Woolworths and you might find one or two different quality standards for each cut of meat. Normally factory farmed or free range.

When you have access to hundreds of online butcheries and delivery services, you can choose the supplier that gives you the perfect balance between ethical, sustainable farming and affordability.

It allows you to follow the traditional advice to “buy the best quality meat you can afford”. You’ll find plenty of options with organic, grass-fed and free range meats.

The Risks of Buying Meat Online

Ordering meat online isn’t without it’s own unique risks. Food safety and quality are critical factors with high standards that must be maintained by everyone involved with delivering meat or seafood products.

Food Safety Concerns

When it comes to food safety, temperature is one of the most important factors to consider. If meat is not stored and shipped at the right temperature, it can become contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens.

This can be especially concerning if the meat needs to be shipped over a long distance, or on a particulary hot Australian summers day.

Quality Control Issues

When you buy meat from a local butcher, you can inspect it firsthand and make sure it meets your standards. However, when you buy meat online, you may not be able to determine the quality of the product until it arrives.

If it’s not up to your standards, you’re not going to be able to return it.

What Does The Australian Food Standards Agency Say?

The FSA are clear in their guidelines that all frozen products should stay “frozen and not partly thawed“, which is ideally at a temperature of -18°C for meat. However, meats will generally stay safe for extended periods at a temperature of 5 ° C or below (defined as ‘chilled’).

Whilst it’s not a legal requirement to transport perishable meats in refrigerated vans, the food standrds agency do state the following:

Generally, however, where delivery times exceed two hours, the food should be carried in refrigerated vehicles that can hold the food at a temperature of 5°C or below or keep it frozen.

This is why you’ll normally see meat delivery services sending their packages in refrigerated vans. The products start at -18°C and are packaged in insulated containers that allow the meat to remain safe for multiple days in refrigerated conditions.

Is It Safe To Have Meat Delivered To Your Home?

As we’ve discussed, most online delivery services have your meat in the delivery van for more than 2 hours. As a result, they need to use refrigerated vehicles.

If you order from a local supplier who deliver the meat directly to you in less than 2 hours, you don’t need to worry about the food safety as long as some insulating precautions have been taken.

It is 100% safe to order meat online, as long as the supplier is using refrigerated vans and the meat doesn’t reach a temperature above 5°C

When ordering meat online, the meat is typically flash-frozen. This means that it is quickly frozen at a very low temperature in order to prevent any bacterial growth. The meat is then vacuum sealed in airtight packaging, which helps to extend the shelf life of the product. Finally, it is shipped in an insulated container with a cold pack, which helps to keep the temperature of the meat below 5°C. 

Can meat be left outside by the delivery provider?

When you order meat online, most providers will give you a large window of time for your delivery. Realistically, it’s not possible to always be at home ready for the delivery driver to knock on your door.

In this scenario, a few factors come into play:

  1. How long the meat has been out for delivery
  2. How well the meat has been packaged in insulating material.
  3. How warm it is on your delivery day.
  4. Whether the package is left in direct sunlight or shade.

The generall rule of thumb is that meat will be safe to eat if it’s been left out in a shaded place for less than 8 hours. In direct sunlight on a hot day, this can easily be halved to just 4 hours.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself on the edge of these boundaries, how can you know if the meat is safe to eat?

How to Tell if Your Meat is Safe To Eat

There’s only one surefire way to check if your meat is safe to eat, and that’s by taking the temperature. On arrival, you should be able to use a thermometer and confirm that the meat remains at less than 5°C.

We recommend a digital thermometer for this, as you don’t want to pierce any vacuum packaging which could allow bacteria onto the surface of the meat.

If you find that the meat is above the 5°C threshold, you should avoid eating it and report the problem to the original sender as soon as possible with picture evidence.

Not everyone has a digital thermometer, so the food safety agency in Australia have produced some further ways to check if meat is still edible:

  • Make sure meat is tightly wrapped and there are no tears or holes in the packaging.
  • Be wary if there is excessive liquid in packaging, which can be an indication that temperature rules are not adhered to. Use a clean, calibrated thermometer to check.
  • Check packaging dates and best before dates.
  • When opened, smell the meat — spoiled red meat will have a strong, distinct odour.
  • When opened, make sure the meat is not slimy or sticky — this is a common sign of bacterial growth.

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Meat Subscription Services In Australia

There are many hundreds of small, local butcheries offering online delivery. It’s hard for me to recommend those, so I recommend looking for local review on Google and checking their credentials on how the animals are reared.

If you’re looking for regular deliveries of premium, ethical and sustainable meats, then I recommend you look no further than ButcherCrowd.

ButcherCrowd offer a wide range of different cuts available in monthly subscription boxes up to 11kg in size, which are highly flexible to order the exact meats you want to eat each month.

They deliver using a refrigerated courier in packaging that’s insulated to keep the meat below 5°C for up to eight hours. They’ve considered their supply chain carefully to ensure you’ll always receive meat that’s safe to eat.

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How to Store Meat After Delivery

Once your delivery has arrived, you should aim to get the meat into the freezer as soon as possible unless you’re planning to eat it within the next 48 hours. This ensures the meat lasts for much longer and you can eat it when you need.

When you’re ready to cook, it’s recommended to put the frozen meat into your refrigerator around 24 hours before you’re planning to cook. This allows you to have defrosted meat to cook with, whilst minimising any time for bacteria to grow.

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