Flying with meat

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Apr 7, 2019
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I want to avoid the overweight fee with the Orion cooler, so what options are out there with flyinging your meat back?

Back in 2010, I used collapsible coolers and waxlined boxes, but the coolers were expensive and while they worked for that initial purpose, they later leaked all over the place.

Ive heard that flying frozen meat in those large storage bins from wal mart can work, but wanted to check to see what yall have done.
 

Rzrbck918

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Bixby Oklahoma
Softsided has worked for me over the past couple years. The benefit is that they weigh very little so you can maximize your weight in meat. Ive only done it with frozen meat though. I know I have seen a couple of threads about this over the past three or four years. Search and PM those guys/gals to see what worked.
 

2rocky

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Jackson Hole Ice and Game processing uses Shavings bags (Heavy plastic bags) to line cardboard boxes. Cut and wrapped with 10# of Dry ice on top.

If you know a veterinarian in the town where you are shipping out of you can ask them to save the shipping boxes their vaccines arrive in. Usually those are styrofoam coolers inside corrugated cardboard boxes.

I've also bought cheap Igloo coolers at the Wal Mart to haul meat home. a 100 qt cooler is 17.5 pounds. Not too much of a bargain at $55 but you can always sell it on Facebook for half price when you get home.
 

wllm1313

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Your strategy will depend a bit on how much meat and from where to where. That being said I've done a turkey from OK to CO, caribou from AK to CO, and a bear from AK to CO. All three times I put the meat in my carry on.

Typically your gear is bulky but light and meat is heavy but compact. Assuming you have boned out your meat, and are not flying delta (they weigh carry-on), you can get about ~100ish pounds of meat in your carry-on between a pack and a "personal item".

I've bee using my Yeti hopper 30 as my personal item and then my SG bag with the frozen meat in a roll top dry bag.
 
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Palmer, AK
Where you coming from and going to? I send company with coolers full of fish year round and they never have a problem. We buy the cheap $20 coleman coolers at wal mart. They weigh about 5 lbs and if you fill them full it's almost exactly 50lbs and check them as baggage. I'll be using that method to fly some meat with me to the Midwest in a few weeks and I have no worries traveling less than 24 hours that way. It will all be rock hard.

I've done the storage bin method if my flight is direct and the meat will only be in there a few hours max (Kodiak to Anchorage for example). We still put the meat inside a contractor bag in the bin to assure we don't make a mess. I wouldn't do things this way if I had total travel time of more than 6 hours.

If I'm flying a moose or a couple caribou from the village and I have a bunch of nasty and wet gear I don't really want to deal with, I go the cargo route. Throw a couple tarps on a pallet and stack it up. Just take a carry on with what I need (including optics) and a rifle case and cargo the rest. If you're lucky, the airline you take home will be in whichever town you are in (for example AK airlines out of Bethel or Denver and flying home to Minneapolis). That option is always overlooked and eliminating the hassle and worry is worth it alone. A few years ago we had two pallets totaling about 1200 lbs of moose/bear/caribou/all our gear from Kotzebue and it cost just under $300. This morning I shipped 8 coolers for work to Minneapolis out of of Anchorage on AK Airlines Goldstreak for delivery at 8 am tomorrow - the total was just under 500lbs and it cost me a little over $200.
 

Hunting Wife

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I’ve used plain old Rubbermaid totes as checked bags with frozen meat, waterfowl to be mounted, and deer antlers, usually with extra outer wear as padding/insulation. Also have put frozen meat and hides/skulls wrapped in contractor bags inside my checked dry bag and carry on backpack. Late fall between Alaska and Montana, everything stayed frozen for a couple of days of flight/drive time to get home.
 

mdhunter

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Maryland
After the hunt I have bought the insulated coolers from Walmart (blue with wheels). Deboned the meat and flown with it iced down multiple times. The cost has varied with the airlines but this method has worked at a reasonable price for me.
 

ajricketts

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I brought a whitetail back from Indiana last year, quartered out. double wrapped in heavy duty garbage bags, and put into a couple checked bags. The bags were checked by TSA but all of it got home cool enough. It was even frozen, just left outside in the 30-35 or so degree weather overnight the night before.
 

WyoDoug

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Cheyenne, Wyoming
I want to avoid the overweight fee with the Orion cooler, so what options are out there with flyinging your meat back?

Back in 2010, I used collapsible coolers and waxlined boxes, but the coolers were expensive and while they worked for that initial purpose, they later leaked all over the place.

Ive heard that flying frozen meat in those large storage bins from wal mart can work, but wanted to check to see what yall have done.
I have shipped meat back through American Airlines using cheap Coleman or Igloo coolers. I have always had descent luck with the cheaper coolers so I have never spent money on high end coolers. Because I don't want to ship empty coolers in the baggage, I always buy them at nearest town where I hunt at. I also debone everything before it gets packed for shipping. Buying cheaper coolers works for me and if they get damaged, I am not out a couple hundred to a grand for a cooler. I use the more expensive coolers to haul food and that to camp and to keep ice for a spell.
 
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Palmer, AK
Based on what others wrote, I will add that TSA's interpretation of the rules of shipping meat seems to be subjective and the goal post seems to move based on where you are and who you are dealing with.

"Meat, seafood and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted."

I've seen in both the Yakutat and Kodiak airport where TSA went through coolers of fish and even though the majority of the packages were frozen, they sifted through everything and would dispose of any packages that were partially frozen. I also had problems in Kodiak one time checking goat meat packed with ice as baggage. They just seemed unsure and reluctant so I didn't risk it and walked next door and shipped it home. For this reason, I like to make sure everything is frozen brick solid if I check meat as baggage and try not to use ice or ice packs with unfrozen meat. Although it will likely be accepted, it doesn't seem worth the risk based on what I've seen and experienced.
 

WyoDoug

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Cheyenne, Wyoming
I use dry ice going through the airlines separating the layers of meat and dry ice with newspaper. As they said before, you are allowed a certain amount of dry ice, but if you freeze your meat first, it does not take much. You also have to label the outside for carbon dioxide.
 
Last edited:

ajricketts

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South Florida
Based on what others wrote, I will add that TSA's interpretation of the rules of shipping meat seems to be subjective and the goal post seems to move based on where you are and who you are dealing with.

"Meat, seafood and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted."

I've seen in both the Yakutat and Kodiak airport where TSA went through coolers of fish and even though the majority of the packages were frozen, they sifted through everything and would dispose of any packages that were partially frozen. I also had problems in Kodiak one time checking goat meat packed with ice as baggage. They just seemed unsure and reluctant so I didn't risk it and walked next door and shipped it home. For this reason, I like to make sure everything is frozen brick solid if I check meat as baggage and try not to use ice or ice packs with unfrozen meat. Although it will likely be accepted, it doesn't seem worth the risk based on what I've seen and experienced.
I think the biggest thing is the ice. Before we flew I reached out to the airline and told them exactly what I was planning on doing. You're allowed a certain amount of dry ice per person, but they really advised against regular ice because it cannot be melted at all. If there is any liquid in the containers they are likely to give you a problem. That's why we just got the meat really cold and went without any ice.
 

Bambistew

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Chugiak, AK
I've flown with meat/fish/birds/hides probably 20-25 times? I've never had an issue even with unfrozen meat (in state). I've used all sorts of packaging, from frozen solid in a trash bag lined cardboard box, soft coolers, insulated fish boxes and cheap coolers. TSA has inspected a number of them, but nothing was ever taken out. I do not fly with ice or dry ice though, and you can by the cheap coolers without drain plugs. IMO the easiest way is to use the cheap igloo coolers and duct tape them closed. They're $20-25ish dollars, hold 60-70lbs of meat depending on how well its frozen/packed. If you can get the coolers where you're going it saves on a lot of headaches, if not pack your gear in them on the way up, along with some duffles for gear on the ride home. I ship fish down to the L48 frequently in insulated fish boxes, It takes 3 days to get there, it will show up partially frozen on the edges, solid in the middle and all without any gel packs, dry ice etc. Flying on a plane or half a day the meat will be solid when you get home. I like the coolers better because its a larger "mass" that holds the cold better vs a long flat fish box.

One thing to keep in mind unless you are flying Alaska Air, most all others will charge you for antlers... I'm not so sure there are some that even prohibit them now. Even if they are in your luggage. I know of a couple guys that where charged for a couple shed antlers in their duffle bags. Check the airline, they all have their own screwy regulations that trump TSA.
 

WyoDoug

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If you have a short flight, using a Coleman or Igloo cooler without ice works fine. Just make sure the cooler is locked down good. You have to declare at check-in that your baggage checked or carry-on has meat and/or ice/dry ice or you are in violation of TSA rules. However, I fly to and from states that have wild pigs and have no issue and all I do is some dry ice at the top. and some at the bottom. When I get home the meat is frozen. Once I get home the meat is put in the freezer and butchered the next day.
 
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