What can I do with this old frozen beef? Can I give it to my cat?
November 6, 2018 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Back when I was still in denial and walking around saying that I was going to start cooking more, I bought some beef. I never used it. What can I do with it?

I purchased it from Costco. It is beef flank steak, 2.71 lbs for $21.65. Pack date 01/09/16, Sell by 01/12/16. It's a little rough looking, as in freezer burned, but still bright red. In the original packaging, put inside a ziplock bag. Can I cook this up somehow and give it to my cat? I've actually fed her a raw diet previously, but that was bought from the store, so I assume there's a little more to it than just breaking out some raw meat. If I can cook it for her, please tell me exactly how.

I assume it would not be good for human consumption, even in a stew or something like that where it would not be the centerpiece. And obviously I wouldn't do it anyway, since I haven't managed to cook it in three years...
posted by unannihilated to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
I would not feed this to my cat.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

Ooh, my kitties would love that! I'd probably cut it up and fry it then give them a little every day. Probably teasing them a little so they excitedly jump and beg for it! Photos of cat will help too
posted by JonB at 11:07 AM on November 6, 2018

It should be fine for your cat. Cats KNOW when something is off (i.e., when their formerly favorite food has been in the fridge for only a day or two).
posted by Melismata at 11:08 AM on November 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Beef can freeze for much longer than other meats, because of the molecular structure of beef fat.

Cooking it without seasoning (especially no salt or alliums) would probably be fine for cat consumption.

But cats are subject to many of the same foodborne illnesses as people, and freezing doesn't necessarily kill E. Coli.

I wouldn't feed a cat raw Costco meat even fresh. A piece of a nice steak that I got from a known source and would consider eating raw myself, sure. Anything wrapped in plastic and sitting in a display cooler, hard no - too many disease vectors.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:23 AM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

As long as it stayed frozen the entire time, it should be perfectly safe for human (or kitty) consumption. USDA recommends throwing out meat that's been in the freezer more than a year, but that's for taste/texture reasons, not for safety. Personally, I would even consider eating it myself, at least in a stew or other preparation where its texture wasn't critical.

Probably safer not to feed to the cat raw, though, and almost three pounds is a lot for a cat to eat. (Maybe consider cutting off chunks with a serrated knife and frying them quickly as a special treat for kitty?)
posted by firechicago at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2018 [17 favorites]

I've actually fed her a raw diet previously, but that was bought from the store, so I assume there's a little more to it than just breaking out some raw meat.

Not really? We feed ours from the butcher. You can feed this to your cat ground or cubed or whatever if you wish to.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2018

It probably has some freezer burn - dried areas from long freezing. Defrost, cut in small pieces, cook, feed to cat in small amounts. Once cooked, it can be re-frozen in smaller portions. It is almost certainly very safe. Meat can pick up freezer flavors, but that doesn't affect safety.
posted by theora55 at 11:45 AM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm going to agree that, in proper freezing conditions, there's no risk in consuming this thoroughly cooked. Accordingly, I suggest thawing it then wrapping it in some foil and sticking it in a medium-low oven for a couple or so hours. Let it cool, cube/slice (whatever your moggy's maw prefers) and package in treat-appropriate portions (pawtions?), then freeze them. Defrost and distribute at will.
posted by howfar at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2018

Huh? I'd totally feed it to the cat. If the cat eats it, that is. If the cat refuses to eat it, don't try to starve the cat into eating it, of course. They are better at detecting spoiled meat than humans are, since their diet consists of, and their survival can depend on, it.

Now, I wouldn't feed it to my dog, because my dog is stupid and will eat anything he can fit in his mouth.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

I would not feed this to my cat. Even if there's only a very small chance, imagine how you would feel if you made your cat sick. To me, that feels way different from taking a chance yourself. (And yes, cats do refuse foods, but if you google "cat food poisoning", it's A Thing. Cats don't magically avoid it.) And if there are vet bills, that would dwarf what you've spent on the beef. Please throw this away.
posted by FencingGal at 12:07 PM on November 6, 2018

I have to confess I have eaten meat that was frozen long (though perhaps not almost three years) beyond the sell-by date and lived to tell the tale. I more-or-less followed theora55's procedure and made a stew out of the chopped-up pieces. I admit it was not great. But it wasn't awful, either, and I suffered no ill-effects. I would certainly feed it to a cat.
posted by ubiquity at 12:25 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

If that beef was fine and safe to eat when it went in the freezer, and it stayed frozen, and you thaw it properly now, it should be just as safe to eat now as in 2016.
Freezing food is one of the safest ways to preserve food at home for future use – much safer than home canning, which if done incorrectly can produce food contaminated with the toxin that causes botulism.

There is no such safety risk with frozen food. And in fact, the process can actually enhance the safety of one type of food we often pop into the freezer, poultry.

"While something's actually frozen in the freezer there's nothing going on that's changing the safety of it," says Elizabeth Andress, a food safety specialist at University of Georgia at Athens. "Quality can continue to deteriorate, but there's really no safety issues while it's in the freezer."

All those guidelines about how long you can freeze this type of fish or that cut of meat relate to how much damage the food will sustain going through the freezing and thawing processes. The recommendations are geared to palatability. So the question isn't 'Will this make us sick?' but 'Would we want to eat this?'

"I think that there's a common misperception that people think food becomes unsafe the longer it sits in the freezer," says Andress, who also works with the U.S. National Center for Home Food Preservation. "You know, that they think that there's an absolute cut-off date for safety. And it really is quality. Because as long as it stays frozen, it's not becoming less safe."
It has almost certainly lost some taste and texture, so I can't predict if you or your cat will be more finicky about eating it.
posted by maudlin at 12:47 PM on November 6, 2018 [14 favorites]

The larger concern I'd have about food safety is that 2.71lbs of beef is an awful lot for one cat to eat; it would probably go off in the fridge well before your cat could finish it all. So after defrosting you'd have to portion and cook and refreeze and thaw the cooked product. And unless it's just a supplemental treat, fed along with other food, the beef alone wouldn't provide a balanced diet for a cat. It seems like a lot of work for little benefit.

I have heard a claim that you can fix freezer-burnt beef with a Cool Whip marinade. I'd be curious enough to try this out myself (although I wouldn't feed treated or marinated meat to a cat). If you aren't inclined to cook it for yourself, though, I'd recommend just throwing it away, or giving it to someone who might want it.
posted by halation at 1:00 PM on November 6, 2018

For those saying just, "I would not feed this to my cat," can you explain why? What is there a risk of if it's been frozen all this time and then I thoroughly cook it? Do you just mean a risk from beef in general, even if it's fresh?
posted by unannihilated at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2018

I would totally eat that. Slow cooked (after browning in a skillet with oil and cardamom to kill the meat stank) in brown ale and molasses with potatoes, carrots, navy beans and garlic. Everything ends up brown anyway.

Any leftovers shredded and served cold with horseradish mayo on sandwiches. Om nom.
posted by scruss at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Cats need meat to survive, but they can't survive on meat alone -- in the wild, they'd consume prey whole, including organs and bones, and commercial cat food takes those nutritional needs into account. You could use the beef as a component in homemade cat food, but you'd have to include bone meal, along with other supplements as well, and the process is considerably more complex than just cooking a flank steak, so if you don't feel like cooking, it'd be a lot of work for you.
posted by halation at 1:35 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

IME unless you have already been feeding kitty raw or cooked meat in addition to or in place of dry/wet food, you may be in for frozen yogurt consistency poo.
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:44 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

In answer to your follow-up, I should first say I’m probably overly cautious when there is a very small chance of a very bad outcome.
In terms of real reasons, the USDA says frozen food is safe indefinitely at 0 degrees. I am not confident that my home freezer stays at 0 degrees at all times. It runs in cycles, and I don’t have a freezer thermometer. Sometimes my frozen berries seem less frozen.
So for me the very small risk outweighs the very small benefit. And if I fed it to my cat, I would spend the next three days anxiously watching my cat for symptoms. For me, that’s not worth it. YMMV.
posted by FencingGal at 6:04 PM on November 6, 2018

The USDA says you can never, ever leave food out of the fridge for more than 2 hours, and they also say that food is perfectly safe forever at 0 F.

So according to the extremely cautious food safety experts, eating this (probably really unappetizing) meat is considerably less risky for you or your cat than eating leftovers that you left out to cool for >2 hours before putting into the fridge. Not that I would ever condone that here, but for comparison's sake.
posted by randomnity at 8:45 PM on November 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

>>I've actually fed her a raw diet previously, but that was bought from the store, so I assume there's a little more to it than just breaking out some raw meat.

Not really? We feed ours from the butcher. You can feed this to your cat ground or cubed or whatever if you wish to.

I would absolutely not feed cuts of meat to a cat as its sole diet. Cats are no better able to thrive on an exclusive diet of muscle meat than humans. Their dietary needs are more complicated than that. If you want to give it to your cat as a treat from time to time, I would think there's nothing wrong with the whatsoever. Cube it up frozen and quickly deep-fry it from frozen in a little oil (this will kill any surface bacteria and create nice roasted flavors while keeping the interior effectively raw).
posted by slkinsey at 5:49 AM on November 7, 2018

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