How to Pack Meat for Air Transport

Pack meat in an insulated cooler with dry ice when traveling.
Pack meat in an insulated cooler with dry ice when traveling. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

If you are flying into the U.S. from another country, you are not permitted bring meat back with you, but if you're traveling domestically and want to transport the juicy steaks you had on vacation or take your signature ham recipe home for the holidays, you'll need to pack carefully and carry your package on the plane with you. A checked package with meat could get lost, and the temperature in the plane's cargo hold can get extremely hot, causing your meat to spoil.

Things You'll Need

  • Meat
  • Insulated cooler
  • Dry ice or frozen ice pack

Purchase a small insulated cooler to store your meat while traveling. You can bring the cooler on the plane as is, or pack it inside a bag or a foam container.

Buy dry ice to keep your meat cold; gel packs used for keeping food cold are not allowed on planes due to the Transportation Safety Administration liquid and gel restrictions. The Federal Aviation Administration allows up to five pounds of dry ice as long as your package is vented.

Purchase ice packs if you don't have access to dry ice. These work best for short flights, since they don't keep food cold as long as dry ice. The ice packs must be completely frozen when you bring your bags through the security checkpoint. If your ice packs start to melt or there is any amount of liquid in the container, you will not be able to bring your meat on the plane, according to the TSA website.

Wrap your meat in plastic wrap and place it in the cooler, then place ice packs or dry ice on top of the meat and close the lid. Mark the outside of your package with "contains dry ice" (if applicable).

Bring your package through the airport's security checkpoint and carry it on the plane. Put your package in the overhead compartment to keep it safe.

Place your meat in a refrigerator or freezer as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some airports have stores that sell frozen steaks; purchasing your meat at the airport saves you the time and hassle of having to package it yourself. Check your airport's website to determine if this option is available.
  • Your meat may be confiscated at the screening checkpoint if a TSA officer has any reason to believe it looks suspicious or was tampered with before packaging. If it is vital that your meat arrives at your destination, ship it for overnight delivery rather than bringing it on the plane.

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