This article was originally published in October 2011 and was updated in February 2015.
For a hunter fortunate enough to cap an outdoor adventure with a prized elk, there's never a shortage of willing recipients to share the spoils with – so how to ship such items is something we're often asked at Compass.
Naturally, elk meat isn't the only food that people like to send across the country. Some parents and grandparents, for example, enjoy preparing home-cooked meals and sending them to loved ones.
The problem, of course, is spoilage, so shipping food items through UPS requires coolant products such as dry ice or frozen gel packs.
As dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) is considered a hazardous material for air travel, it's subject to regulations and labeling requirements not applicable to ground transport. Another issue: Most people have no experience shipping with dry ice or gel freezer packs so they're unsure where to find these products or how best to pack them.
Here are a few useful tips:
- Where can I buy dry ice or gel freezer packs? Most grocery stores and butcher shops sell both products, while gel freezer packs can be found at some The UPS Store® locations. Go here for a partial list of dry ice vendors across the United States.
- What's better for shipping meat – dry ice or gel freezer packs? The quick answer: They both work but have their strengths and weaknesses. Dry ice (-109 F), as the name suggests, keeps a package dry, whereas gel packs dampen as they thaw. Dry ice is also colder but doesn't last as long as gel packs. One significant advantage of gel freezer packs: There are no restrictions on the amount that can be shipped by air.
- How should I pack meat to keep it frozen? For best results, use a Styrofoam cooler, preferably at least 1.5 inches thick. Next, place one layer of coolant inside. Then place a sealed bag of meat inside the cooler, followed by another layer of coolant. Final step: Seal the cooler lid with tape, as this helps preserve the coolant.
- Which shipping option should I choose for perishables like meat? The effectiveness of dry ice and gel packs vary, with three days considered the maximum time a product can be stored. So UPS Next Day Air®, guaranteeing delivery by the next business day, is your best option. If using 2nd Day Air®, remember to add more dry ice or gel freezer packs. Send shipments early in the week.
- How should I handle dry ice? It's important to take precautions. Use gloves when handling dry ice as extreme temperatures burn skin.
- Other recommendations to consider:
It's important to fill the empty space inside of the cooler with either 60 lb. kraft paper or bubble wrap. The additional void fill will help keep the cold confined into one area.
Use a combination of both dry ice and frozen gel packs. Place the dry ice in the bottom of the cooler, next place the frozen gel packs, put the meat on top of the frozen gel packs. Then follow the opposite pattern to the lid of the cooler (meat, frozen gel pack, dry ice, cooler lid). The dry ice will help keep the frozen gel packs cooler longer.
For more information about dry ice shipping regulations, go to ups.com.