Some people believe that fresh meat, newly slaughtered, is the best meat for ease of meal preparation, texture and flavor. It is known that fresh, warm meat that is not ever refrigerated spoils quickly and that this presents risk to our health. If fresh meat is not to be consumed immediately (within a few hours), it must be refrigerated in order to prevent spoilage and food poisoning.
There are many, however, who advocate that fresh meat is best when it is cured for a period of time prior to consumption. There are numerous curative processes, too many to be outlined, but virtually all require some degree and period of cold storage to avoid spoilage and poisoning.
Regardless of which side of the argument really demonstrates the best meat condition with the most flavor and tenderness, there is no doubt that without cold storage, many people who enjoy eating meat, poultry or fish, or associated dairy products, could not possibly have the enjoyment of the variety we have available throughout the year. With the possible exception of some farmers, ranchers, hunters and fishermen, the rest of carnivorous humankind would be denied most of the meat products we typically enjoy.
First and foremost, cold storage prevents the growth of harmful and deadly bacteria. Within just a few hours, fresh meat left unrefrigerated begins to host the growth and reproduction of bacteria.
But there are other concerns than just bacterial growth. Without refrigeration, chemical reactions begin in the meat and these changes accelerate with continued exposure to warm conditions unless the meat is cooked. These chemical reactions quickly cause deterioration of the meat beyond usable quality, causing the meat to become rancid.
Proper cold storage of meat minimizes the effects of bacteria and rancidity, but unless meat is actually frozen, the extreme of cold storage, these effects are reduced significantly, but they are not prevented completely.
Meats intended to be frozen before use in meal preparation are typically quick-frozen at -18ºC (0.4ºF) and are then kept at 0ºC (32ºF) or less for long-term storage. However, there is a far better case made for proponents of cold storage, but not frozen storage. Freezing food causes micro-crystal structures in the cells that rupture the tissue. Some allege that this condition reduces the quality of flavor and tenderness.
For fresh storage of meat, there is no better treatment to maintain meat at the peak of freshness for a few days than with refrigerated storage.