Mist in the SoLow Freezer
When I open SoLow freezer slowly this is the view that greets me. That is a deadly cold mist. Don’t breath it in or it could freeze your throat and lungs. The SoLow freezer is running at -121°F (-85°C) although at the moment I had opened it the compressor had just shut off so it had over shot a bit down to -125°F (-87°C). The air currents from the room cause it to roil like waves in the ocean, a dense cloud that is settled in the freezer tank.
Consider that Dry Ice, which is frozen Carbon Dioxide (CO2) freezes at about -109°F (-78°C). That mist in the photo is not water (H2O) vapor but rather it is a mist of sublimated CO2. So not only would that mist sear your lungs with cold but it would kill you by suffocation.
A deadly cold mist.
So why, you may wonder, does a farm have a laboratory grade super freezer that freezes things colder than dry ice?!? Well, the answer economics, ecology and quality.
Economics: When we ship meat we need it to stay frozen or at least cold until it gets to its destination. Normally this is done by adding dry ice to packages. But there are new regulations that limit the use of Dry ice, it is expensive around here and you can’t get it locally. We have to drive two hours to obtain dry ice. That costs a lot of time and gasoline. Then the dry ice costs $2.50/lb and you need to buy at least ten pounds to ship even a small box of meat since you need five pounds at minimum. This all makes dry ice very expensive to use for shipping. The dry ice cost to ship a 40 lb box of meat is about $150 to $190 depending on how you calculate your time, gasoline, vehicle use and the added cost of shipping due to the added weight of the dry ice.
Ecological: Dry ice is CO2 which it would be better not to be rereleasing too much of into the atmosphere due to it’s effect on global warming. Not using dry ice for shipping helps in a small way.
Quality: For the consumer the flash freezing in the SoLow means better quality meat. When you freeze product very quickly micro-crystals are produced in the cells instead of the long ice crystals that puncture cell walls. This produces meat that is as good as fresh quality. To maximize the effect I put small fans in my flash freezer to turn it into a blast freezer which makes it even more efficient and produce faster freezing and thus even higher quality. As an extra benefit, the deep freezing can also kills pathogens which further enhances food safety.
There is another benefit to the SoLow: even with lots of dry ice the meat can not realistically economically get below -25°F (32°C) because of heat transfer equations. That’s just reality. It matches the math and the actual data I have measured in the real world. An equal volume of dry ice can’t cool the meat by more than a certain amount and that is very expensive.
On the other hand, the SoLow freezer will take 50 lbs of meat all the way down to -121°F (-85°C) which is far, far colder for a mere $2.60 in electricity. Add amortization of the lab grade SoLow freezer and we’re still under $25 per package for the super freezing.
The SoLow saves money, saves the Earth and improves quality. It’s a win-win-win all the way around.
So you might ask, “Why don’t more butcher shops do this?” That was the question the inspector once mused when I showed him our SoLow and explained why we have it.
Well, the very big meat processing facilities do. Its the industry norm at the high end. And now some smaller facilities have started doing it too based on learning that we are doing this here. I know of three small processors that now have SoLow freezers for flash super freezing their meat for shipping. It’s a trend, or a conspiracy, or what ever, towards better quality, economics and one more way we can make our work green.
Being green doesn’t just help the environment, it is also economically good because it keeps more of the green stuff in our pockets. Profitability is one key component to sustainability. The super freezer improves sustainability both economically and environmentally making it a double win.
A deadly cold mist that is saving the world.
Outdoors: 54°F/42°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 63°F/62°F
Daily Spark: One assumes that cause has an effect but that assumes causality is meaningful and that time flows in only one direction, perhaps sometimes the effect happens first or just is happening anyways.