What’s the difference between fresh & frozen provisions? This depends on many factors. What provisions are we discussing? Are they coming from local farmers? Are we talking about maintaining its nutritional integrity or flavor? Has the product been frozen 1, 2, 3, or 4 times? Let’s dive in!
Freezing food has been a natural preservation method way before industrialized freezers and refrigerators were even a concept. Obviously only in the coldest of climates, long voyages by primitive hunters would seek out the best areas to hunt or fish. They would stay for weeks /months building up supply, and then bring this food back to their community. Similarly, to the natural fermentation practices of primitive cultures living in warmer climates, this was the only way to preserve food and its nutritional integrity with no power or resources to do the work for them.
For produce such as vegetables and fruits it is important to discuss seasonality and sustainability. With technological advances influencing our communications, it is easiest for us to source what we can fresh from the local farmers and instead leave it to you, the buyer, to do with as you please. For local produce, we do always recommend eating it as close to its harvest date. This varies substantially depending the produce we are discussing (E.G Root Vegetables versus salad greens). This is when minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and its nutritional integrity along with flavor are at their peak. Freezing will diminish these instantly, so it is always best to preserve using fermentation, pickling, or even more modern jarring practices. Freezing your produce can limit its value and flavor similarly to picking un-ripe fruits and vegetables & then shipping them 3000 (+) miles to our grocery store shelves or local restaurant chains. You would be quite astonished to see the nutritional profile and experience the flavor of a banana or avocado harvested ripe in its region of growth versus the ones picked in these same regions and then stocked on shelves or served on your plates. It is always better to eat produce seasonally, locally, and at fresh harvest for the most nutritional density and flavor profile.
For meats, fish, poultry, and raw dairy products…. Freezing, aging, or even smoking for long periods of time are the best practices for preservation. We are here to talk about freezing. The nutritional integrity of frozen meat, fish, and poultry immediately after harvest can withhold its full nutritional integrity for 3-6 months when properly limiting its access to oxygen. The same goes for raw dairy products. This was done in primitive cultures and still done today by burying in cellars, ice or snow after freezing. Today we use vacuum sealed air tight packaging which is the best way to preserve with a large and ever expanding human population. The important thing to remember is that it is best to ONLY FREEZE ONCE. Even though you can re-freeze, once the meat is initially thawed the proteins become exposed to oxygen affecting the quality of the meat and increasing the chances of exposure to bad bacteria. This is big reason there are bacteria outbreaks like salmonella in many of the WAY TOO LARGE farming operations, even with USDA “supervision.” After these animals are slaughtered in large facilities, they wait in line to be packaged and frozen. They are then shipped on trucks to holding facilities hundreds to thousands of miles away. Some are put on planes, trains, and then back on trucks to another holding facility. Here, again, they are then put back on board more transportation services and shipped to our stores or restaurants, thawed, and SOLD AS FRESH. How??? Because it has “supposedly” only been frozen once. In reality, without constant oversight and when crossing numerous hands, facilities, & means of transportation, they have most certainly been thawed and frozen numerous times before your purchase. The time between each can determine the risk factors and affect quality control.
Having local direct farm access means only two hands have touched it; the farmer and its packager. The packager slaughters and butchers the live animal, seals these cuts in air tight packaging, and then freezes it to maintain all its nutritional integrity. Sometimes, depending on the farmer’s operation, there could be just one hand. This is the case only if the farmer has the means of operating their own slaughter facility on the farm. I can count on one hand, literally, the amount of small sustainable farmers in the country with the means to do this. We work with one of them!!
For butchers and fisheries in more urban areas… it is too hard to tell. Whenever you add another middle man to end consumer distribution, money becomes a determining factor on integrity. Especially when trying to sell sustainably and responsibly raised foods, the excessive overhead of storefront, labor, utilities, etc… can alter that operations concern for integrity because the upfront cost for these animals is already expensive. BUT only expensive to what we, as a society, have become accustomed to. The butchers end up buying prepackaged primal cuts to breakdown instead of harvesting the whole animal. Either way, this animal goes from farmer, to harvester, to distributor, then to butcher. Fisheries end up turning more to farm raised fish than wild caught. These methods both require preservation and can be sold as fresh if only frozen once. Without going direct to farms, knowing your farmer or fisherman, you will never be able to tell the true integrity of your purchase. Even the local butcher or fishery you are buying from cannot tell at times how many hands have been involved, or even the quality of the animal they are receiving, unless they track that animal from the farm all the way to their store. It is always best to go direct to farm for complete transparency as well as the best, tastiest, most nutrient dense meats and produce!