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How long should I store foods in the freezer?

Frozen foods undergo slow changes in storage and will not retain their quality indefinitely. The length of time that frozen products may be kept without loss of quality depends on:


  • Proper handling before freezing
  • Packaging materials used
  • Storage temperature
  • Kind of food stored


Do not store frozen food too long. Use food first that has been stored longest. Food storage varies greatly for different products. Suggested lengths of storage for some foods are:


  • beef - 6 to 12 months
  • ground beef, veal, lamb meats - 2 to 3 months
  • ground pork - 1 to 2 months
  • fish, moderate to high oil content - 2 to 3 months
  • fish, low oil content - 3 to 6 months
  • fruits & vegetables - 12 months or less
  • lamb - 6 to 9 months
  • liver - 1 to 2 months
  • oysters - 4 months
  • pork, fresh - 3 to 6 months
  • pork, cured (bacon, ham) - use within 1 month
  • sausage - 1 to 3 months
  • poultry - 6 months
  • shrimp in shell - 6 to 12 months
  • shrimp, peeled and deveined - 3 to 6 months


Thaw food properly, and use frozen food immediately after it is thawed. Since all bacteria are not killed by freezing, they become more active as the food thaws. Therefore, foods should be thawed in the refrigerator to minimize bacterial growth during thawing. If frozen food is not used soon after thawing, food value will be lost and spoilage will occur quickly. For more detailed information, refer to MP 556, "Storing Food in the Freezer" and GH 1501, "Freezing Basics".            



Barbara Willenberg, Nutritional Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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