The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

April 20, 2016

Buying and Storing Meat without Plastic

turkey[1]For four long years, I ate only a vegetarian diet, and the only meat I bought was for our cats (who are obligate carnivores.)  In fact, I wrote a very reasoned and heartfelt blog post about why I decided to become a vegetarian.  But while my heart and mind loved the idea of being a vegetarian, my body didn’t.

Two years ago, I started doing accounting for a family-owned, local, sustainable Bay Area meat and restaurant company.  For the first six months, I remained a vegetarian, despite being surrounded by meat.  And when I say “meat,” I mean whole animal carcasses brought in from local farms to be processed by the skilled butchers at our company.  Somehow, seeing the actual animals and knowing where they came from made it easier to consider eating meat again.  And one night at work, exhausted and hungry, I went ahead and ate some organic, pastured, heritage turkey leftover from the holidays.  And I noticed that I actually felt better physically than I had in a long time.  So, I crossed over to the grass-fed meat-eaters side and have not looked back.

I’m not interested in arguing

On this blog, I aim to inspire people to make changes by giving them information and alternatives for reducing plastic in their lives.  I do not do it by judging their personal choices or scolding them for the plastic they do use.  Therefore, I expect the same consideration from the commenters on this blog.  If you want to argue about whether anyone should eat meat or not, please take it to a forum dedicated to that topic.  This blog is about avoiding plastic.  And with that said, here’s a way I have found to avoid plastic packaging around meat!

Life Without Plastic’s Airtight Stainless Containers

Life Without Plastic, which is a sponsor of this blog, has designed some awesome containers that are great in the refrigerator, freezer, and even the oven!  I have written about storing bread in these containers, and cheese, and frozen veggies.  Nowadays, I also take them with me to the butcher counter to buy all kinds of meat.  Most butcher scales have the ability to tare the container so that you only pay for the contents and not the weight of the container itself.

I bring the big container home and portion out the meat into single serving sizes in smaller stainless steel containers that will stack in my freezer.

Recently, I discovered that a whole, pastured chicken will fit inside one of these containers, too.  And the butchers in my neighborhood have no problem putting my meat or chicken in my container.  They just slap a sticker on it.  (Yes, the sticker is plasticky.  No, I can’t avoid it.)

The beauty of this container is that it’s all metal — no plastic or silicone of any kind — so I can put the chicken straight into the oven in the same container.

And then I can store the cooked chicken in the same container in the refrigerator.

And when the carcass is picked clean, I can use it to make broth and keep the chickeny goodness going for as long as possible.  I’m also experimenting with spatchcocking the chicken to save the raw backbone for even more nutritious broth (since the rest of the bones have had much of the nutrients roasted out of them.)

My next post will continue with the theme of broth… like what to do when you need it and don’t have any.  (Don’t reach for a can!)  I also have a beef jerky post I’ve been meaning to write since Burning Man last year.  Stay tuned.


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59 Comments on "Buying and Storing Meat without Plastic"

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I’d love one of those airtight containers but they cost US$90 each. I’d love some affordable ways to store meat thatdon’t involve plastic.

Also, I am trying to eliminate tin foil, since this isn’t biodegradable. UGH. Don’t know what to do? What the heck did my grandmother use?

Since ‘tin foil’ is actually made of aluminum and aluminum is highly recyclable, I don’t feel too bad about giving it a rinse and putting it in the recycling bin. I wouldn’t use it in place of a lide while baking or in some other situation that there was an easy reusuable substitute, but in the grand scheme of things, it is fairly sustainable.

Question: I bought butcher paper so I could wrap meat for the freezer, but I am now finding out that you need to use plastic wrap first, then the paper. That defeats the purpose for me, which is getting rid of all plastic, even plastic wrap. Any tips?

Hello. I see a glass container in your refrigerator, the square one with glass lid .I would like to have one of those but I don’t know where to buy it and also the other two glass bottles. Finally I found how to freeze meat without plastic. Thank you in advance

I saw your blog and I eat meat but I am very keen to stop using plastic packaging as I believe this is a big problem. I was wondering where you get your containers for meat so that my mum and I can stop buying meat with plastic packaging.


Hi there! Thanks so much for writing this post! It’s my first time on your blog and this was a great place for me to start. I have ALWAYS hated plastic. Even as a child (which wasn’t that long ago, I’m only 22). I use Pyrex for storage instead of Tupperware, I use a reuseable glass water cup (that I won’t leave a room or the house without), and use mostly compostable or recycled paper goods. My husband & I use lunchskins reuseable sandwich pouches and compostable snack bags to put in our home compost! I have been finding new… Read more »

I like to roast meat on a bed of veggies. Can I do this and then freeze the whole thing (raw chicken and veg) and then throw it in the oven when I am ready?

How do you avoid freezer burn on the meat? Looks like a great way to do it if you don’t have too much dead space in the containers.

Oh my gosh thank you!!!! I’ve been wondering how to store meat!! I’m not much of a meat eater but my SO is so I’ve been stumped on how to store it plastic free

What brand/size is that great big container?? It’s amazing, and I’d love one!

There are three stores in our area that sell well-treated and well-raised animal products and I’ve asked at all 3 about bringing in my own containers for buying meat and none of them will allow that. Can you tell me (us) how to go about going plastic-free when it’s not supported by local markets? Thanks!

Thank you! This is so helpful!

I’m still trying to figure out how to get around local meat packaging laws since the farmers we get our meat from are not legally allowed to give us meat that is not wrapped. I’ve prioritized buying from friends/my community over zero waste but I’m working on the plastic part of it too!

Fortunately, fish and game are unwrapped!

Thanks Beth! My main interest is learning to use little to no plastic, and by your sharing your favorite buys and tips, I can keep baby-stepping. I sincerely appreciate every bit of help you throw my way.

What size fits a whole chicken? I see pictures and need to know which one to purchase. thanks, Merle

Hi Beth, thanks for all your wonderful advice about reducing plastic use in our lives. Knowing that it harms all wildlife is enough for me to stop. I love the advice you have given for so long and I know your heart is in this for the long haul. One fascinating cultural difference between our countries is that somehow the US marketing system persuaded everyone to stop using lids. Not so in my country, but cooking shows from the US even affected my country showing people pulling out screeds of plastic or tin foil to cover things. People thought that’s… Read more »

While I am (almost) vegan, none of the three other adults in my household are, and I’ve been wanting a way to buy them the meat they desire (pasture-raised is my requirement!) without plastic packaging. A plasticky label is better than a polystyrene tray wrapped in plastic wrap with a plastic-lined absorbent pad beneath!
I love the look of your stainless steel storage containers & they are on my “Buy Soon” list! Thanks for a great blog (veg or not)!

But this blog isn’t about avoiding plastic. Yes, that it the outcome but your wonderful book and your blog have done a great job of stating why to avoid plastic, and that is for the environment. That’s what it’s really about; your blog just explains the how-to part of it. And while this is not a judgement, nor arguing – for not every disagreement is an argument, just hopeful discussion, I too will live without fear and leave this comment even though I’ve been told not to. Clearly you already know that the single best thing we can do for… Read more »
I went vegetarian in college for almost a year and felt terrible. I remember upping my egg and cheese consumption to add “flavor” and “protein” to my diet. My digestion was poor, I felt tired, my skin broke out, and I was even turned away for blood donation because I became anemic. I started eating meat again and thought I felt better because my symptoms improved but they didn’t completely go away. Last year, I decided to do a 30-day plant-based vegan challenge, and to my surprise I felt great! My acne and digestive issues went away, and I had… Read more »

I highly recommend that you read through Denise Minger’s long and careful analysis for the China Study:

It’s not a hard fact that vegetarianism/veganism is best for health (it’s not, though it depends on the person) or the environment. Both are easily contestable and require delving into more nuanced stuff.

Thanks for keeping it respectful though!

Our ancestors have eaten meat for tens of thousands of years (hunters/gatherers), and our bodies are designed to do the same. What they are not designed to do is digest the inferior quality meats offered at the local grocery store. Pastured, grass-fed meat is healthy. Just wish it was easier to find.

Cheers to you! Thank you for sharing your experience and helping those of us who do eat meat figure out how to avoid plastic when buying and storing it. I will never scold anyone who chooses to be vegetarian, and all my friends who are vegetarians extend the same courtesy to me.

Brilliant, Beth! Thank you!

THANK YOU!!! These containers look amazing, and I am so relieved to hear people getting real about moderate, responsible meat consumption.

B12 is in meat. Calcium helps the body use it. Yay, Beth!

Thanks for the post and the great ideas. I’m impressed this container can go from freezer to oven to *stove.*

Do you have tips for removing the store label from the lids? Do the lids get gummy from trying to remove the labels?

Goo Gone, available at most hardware and even some grocery stores, is great at removing the adhesive after you rip or scrape the label off. It is citrus oil based & safe for your skin, and it works to get the sticky residue off almost anything. (Not expensive, either!)

Oh my gosh Beth, you beautiful women you! I’ve been looking for a storage solution for a whole chicken! Eureka, I will definitely put this container on my wish list. Yay! I purchase all of my meat in glass containers at my local butcher and I buy directly from local farmers when possible. I spend quite a bit of budget on good quality, humane raised, local meat and I’m proud of that. I don’t buy new shoes but I will spend lots of $$ on free range chickens and grassfed beef! :) I am not a vegan and will probably… Read more »
I’ve been a vegetarian twice, for a total of fifteen years, and I’m sorry I was. My health suffered from this. My hormone system broke down, which led to years of infertility and more. Another piont is that growing cereals on a big scale do a lot of damage to mother Earth. Being a farmer’s daughter I know first hand what the soil of a farm without any cattle turns into – basically a desert. What we need, besides getting rid of plastics, is a countryside of diversity and it take grass eaters to get that. Only with grass eaters… Read more »

Hello, Mrs. Terry. I read your book and noticed you used these containers for your cats’ meat. Great to know they can be used for all kinds of things. I wanted to know which size of container you used for the whole chicken. I think that just one should do it for me when I head to NYC for school soon

Thank you for posting this. I have often wondered how you got around this issue. I generally buy our meat in bulk, but it’s wrapped in a vacuum sealed plastic bag. I then cut it into serving sized pieces for the freezer. Instead of using freezer paper (which is plastic coated on one side :( ) these containers would solve that problem. I like that they can be used as roasting pans! The only problem is I’ve been turned away by grocery store managers for asking the sushi counter to put my sushi into a bento box (my own) and… Read more »

Hey Judith,
I know that exact scenario. Calmly ask what law, and that you aren’t suggesting they compromise their entire display. This is no different than them putting it in their packaging and you immediately replacing it with your own. The sushi attendant must swith gloves between patrons, regardless of packaging, and in the event someone became ill, there would only be an inquiry if multiple, separate cases emerged. Also, be sweeter than honey about it; people really like to disregard anything they perceive coming from Angry/Emotional Women.

This is one b of my biggest plastic free challenges. No one nearby will allow meat to be purchased this way, at least not at a price I can afford. :( I thought about going vegetarian again, but for now it is a struggle.

By the way, I use these types of large stainless steel containers when I make massive amount of kimchi! It’s air tight so the smell doesn’t affect my fridge. I have several round ones and they are perfect for storing large amounts of food. I like the rectangular shapes though. Will have to look for those.

Isn’t it bad to ferment in metal?

Great post Beth! No one diet is perfect for everyone. So I’m totally with you on this one Beth. I, too, started eating meat after I felt unhealthy after being a vegan. I hear stories like this often. I buy grass fed meats from farmers market and from a farm 2 hours away and the meats are always frozen and vacuum sealed in plastic. I hope your solution was available though.

I so appreciate your honesty. I’m about to spill the beans on my blog, also, as I’m interested in agroecology. Just like you, I nee to eat meat, too. I have so many food sensitivities. I know that many will judge me because I write about the environment so much. I’m planning on purchasing one of these containers (above) soon. I’m limited in grocery store choices in my community, so you are way ahead of me. I’m aware of my environmental impact, and it makes me sad. I’ll be moving next year to a different town, where the choices in… Read more »

That container looks really awesome. Although as a family we have been trying for years to become less and less-meat-atarians, I have found since my Celiac diagnosis (and elimination of gluten) that I do feel better when I eat meat. And my GI doctor told me to lay off the beans while my intestines heal! : ( But it has not escaped my notice that plastic is much more difficult to avoid when shopping for animal products (meat and cheese in particular). This is a fabulous solution for buying, storing, and preparing meat!

The only meat I could buy and bring my containers like you do is CAFO meat that I really don’t want to eat. I’m sadly buying packages in plastic from a family owned farm that raises pastured pork and grass fed beef. The taste is awesome, I know I’m not contributing to the torture of animals, it’s probably way better for the environment and is certainly for my health but I generate plastic waste like there is no tomorrow. (The packages are only 400g!) But even if I rack my brain, I don’t see a way around it. Some year… Read more »

If you buy from this farm regularly and they know you, is it not worth asking if you could ring them, put your order in, and then pick it up in your containers without the packaging when it’s ready?

That’s a good solution for when I find a farm close to where I live, but this farm is 150km away. These type of farms are really rare around here but, hopefully, there will be some more in the future. I still haven’t found any way to buy pastured chicken or pastured eggs. I’ve never tasted either and I can’t wait to try it.

I tried giving up meat for about a year. Then when I was pregnant I started dreaming about brisket. I believe as long as animals are raised humanely it’s OK to eat meat. That said, my six year old has been a self proclaimed vegetarian for as long as he could speak. Maybe he was a chicken in a past life?

It’s great that your child is vegetarian. I think it’s easier for children to go vegetarian/vegan because they are less ingrained in culture and are able to respond to their aversion to killing more purely without the resistance that adults have after so many memories and years of eating animals. Humane meat is impossible if you think about it. I understand there is less torture and suffering but it is suffering & captivity nonetheless and it is domination of animals with very high levels of intelligence, sometimes smarter than dogs (e.g. pigs, and cows are close in intelligence to dogs).… Read more »

Good try but chicken are not vegetarian, they eat bugs and worms if they can. Not that I have anything against your son if he eat bugs and worms. ;o)

in fact, chickens will eat each other!

I totally LOVE your one container does it all solution! From butcher to oven to fridge to broth. I too am a recovering vegetarian. I didn’t eat meat for over 20 years, but honestly, it was just really hard on my body. I think people are different and there isn’t necessarily one diet that works for everybody. CatMan has been happily vegetarian for over 40 years now (well, he eats milk, eggs and fish) but it totally works for him. For me, with my nut & seed allergies, and problems with soy and legumes – well I just got to… Read more »

Thank you Beth! I’m so glad you decided to break from the fear of ridicule. My body was not happy eating a vegan diet either and it’s so important to listen to our bodies! Thank you for continuing to share your plastic free life hacks. You are such an inspiration – I’m not sure how anyone could manage to criticize! Thank you for the difference you make in this world!

Eat Right 4 Your Type
Dr. Peter J. D’ Adamo