4

votes

Do we really need refrigeration?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 31, 2012 at 8:56 PM

My roommate uses a goodly portion of the fridge, so I have found that I don't refrigerate things as much as I used to. Things like meat that I've not frozen, eggs, or veggies, sure. But a lot of other stuff I find is still alright if left out -- especially fermented or cured foods like yogurt, cheese, lox, even sauerkraut once.

Which got me thinking. Is refrigeration part of the problem? Is it why people started eating more modern foods, because of a modern way to accommodate them, especially things like pasteurized vs raw dairy? Alternatively, refrigeration staves of fermentation, and I know a lot of people here love fermented foods for their benefits. Maybe I'm too ignorant of the science behind some of this -- but do we really need refrigeration?

Edit: Something I found on eggs. It looks like if they are fresh enough, there's really no need to refrigerate: http://www.chow.com/food-news/54944/do-eggs-need-to-be-refrigerated/

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 28, 2012
at 06:33 PM

All the more reason to live in the country again, right? And I do know how to smoke meat, milk a goat, etc. Thanks!

D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

(4134)

on February 28, 2012
at 05:38 PM

Caleb, before refrigeration, folks used ice boxes, or root cellars, or spring houses. I, too, have wondered how it might be possible to live without the fridge. It would require smoking or salting the meats, or making jerky (or later, pemmican), and having one's own chickens, cow or goat, etc. Having a smoke house, and using the milk fresh would eliminate the need for a fridge. Not washing fresh eggs and keeping them in a root cellar works. But, how to do this in an urban area? I don't know.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:03 PM

Wow, down-voted for advocating prudent food handling... ;)

0df0b1c6ae16bbb75b4a5efa3d876765

(2240)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:24 AM

My fridge looks almost empty compared to the way it used to when I ate the SAD. Now I wish I had more freezer space.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on February 01, 2012
at 06:13 PM

Unwashed eggs. Don't try that with regular eggs in the US.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 03:02 PM

I'm not looking for reenactment, I just like to give thought about how things have been done in the past. For example, fruit goes bad faster in the fridge, so I generally don't refrigerate it. Just looking for a broader understanding - and a way to cut energy costs. Still, I appreciate your input, Matt. =)

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 03:00 PM

neat! thanks, Lizzish!

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on January 31, 2012
at 10:04 PM

You go Hobbit Caleb! :)

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on January 31, 2012
at 09:50 PM

I don't live underground yet....but I will someday!

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on January 31, 2012
at 09:49 PM

great response. When living out in the country again, I wonder how little I will need a fridge.

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11 Answers

7
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on January 31, 2012
at 09:28 PM

Even though you live underground where it's cooler you should refrigerate to prevent foodbourne illness--it's not worth the risk in my opinion. Tell Frodo to share.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on January 31, 2012
at 09:50 PM

I don't live underground yet....but I will someday!

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on January 31, 2012
at 10:04 PM

You go Hobbit Caleb! :)

4
627cf3f5d1ddfb4c2f4c96169420f55f

on February 01, 2012
at 02:46 AM

Veggies and fruits do NOT need to be refrigerated. The just last longer if you do refrigerate them.

A primal farmer told me that eggs last up to 1 month at room temp and up to 2 months in the fridge.

I don't think any of us take a month to finish a dozen or 2 eggs... so go ahead and leave these foods out if need be.

5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on February 01, 2012
at 06:13 PM

Unwashed eggs. Don't try that with regular eggs in the US.

4
A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on January 31, 2012
at 09:35 PM

I love questions like this because they reveal interesting things about culture, and I am endlessly fascinated by foodways and food cultures.

I don't know that I'd say refrigeration is "part of the problem." It certainly was a tool that made living in dense urban environments (which is, after all, more energy efficient) a lot more feasible. It takes land and space to produce and keep food safely for year-round eating, and "high-rise" apartment dwellers--present since at least the turn of the last century--don't have such options.

For instance, in old-time agricultural communities, people did have refrigeration--after a fashion--in the form of the root cellar. Below the house, and below the ground, in the dark, apples, cabbages, roots and tubers lasted the winter. More fragile stuff was canned and kept safely in the pantry. Meats were dry-cured and/or smoked. Eggs are perfectly safe at room temperature for days--certainly they'd be eaten long before going bad. Dairy was produced and consumed daily, or made into fermented products as you've suggested. Many things were likely consumed about as fast as they were produced, with little going to waste. Whatever waste there was went to the pigs and chickens to be recycled back into more food.

Then there was the icebox. If you've ever seen one, you know they weren't keeping much in there...too small.

Refrigeration certainly encourages waste these days (I call the "crisper" drawer in my fridge the "rotter,"), and the adoption of convenience foods, like prepared condiments, pre-made meals, etc.

But since going more or less paleo, I have found my need for fridge space dwindling. I almost always have a whole shelf free. But instead of a root cellar and canning, I do have a small chest deep freeze where my non-seasonal produce and extra meat lives. Thanks to that deep freeze, I think these days I could probably get by on a large dorm-sized fridge. (I am single, though, with no roommates.)

0df0b1c6ae16bbb75b4a5efa3d876765

(2240)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:24 AM

My fridge looks almost empty compared to the way it used to when I ate the SAD. Now I wish I had more freezer space.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on January 31, 2012
at 09:49 PM

great response. When living out in the country again, I wonder how little I will need a fridge.

2
2c8c421cf0e0c462654c7dc37f8b9711

(2729)

on February 01, 2012
at 12:47 PM

Here are some ideas if you want to avoid the fridge

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 03:00 PM

neat! thanks, Lizzish!

1
24d67557966cdfc748fc2b12053e6a23

(335)

on February 01, 2012
at 02:27 AM

If you eat the animal immediately after you gut it, then no.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 31, 2012
at 09:23 PM

It's only my opinion, but I think we do. I also think we are over-using the fridge since it's there. When I was growing up, the cooked boiled dinner sat on the cellar steps until bedtime rather than going into the fridge warm and raw eggs frequently sat on a bowl on the table. After Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey sat out with a dish towel over it so we could grab morsels as we passed. Nothing bad ever happened.

On the other hand, after eating at supermarket delis and restaurants I've suffered severe food poisoning several times. I'm willing to do whatever's needed to avoid any more such experiences.

Cooked food dishes, such as vegetable/potato salad or meat with sauces, absolutely need to be refrigerated. Many raw foods will keep much longer if refrigerated. Here in southern Nevada, I know people lived here without refrigeration but I can't imagine it. You'd be limited to dried or fresh-cut/killed food for sure.

0
Dabdb4e771b72dff14709b0258b207a7

on February 01, 2012
at 11:49 PM

I left eggs out on my counter for about a month once when I went on a trip and they were fine. I never refrigerate them. They cook better if at room temp anyway :)

0
5e36f73c3f95eb4ea13a009f4936449f

(8280)

on February 01, 2012
at 06:32 PM

In re. your question, I think you're asking the wrong question. It's not so much are refrigerators necessary, but is food preservation necessary. Refrigerators are just one aspect of that.

In the past, you either ate food right away or you preserved it for future eating. Or you got sick/died from food poisoning... Using cold, salt, vinegar, fermentation, canning, dehydration, etc. Refrigerators are a modern extension of root cellars for keeping food cold.

Refrigerators are a convenience and time saver in the modern era. So, it depends on how much work you want to do. Is a refrigerator critical? No. Assuming you want to buy food every few days, pay extra (because you're missing the bulk purchase days), have room to store the food, and have the time/want to do all the other work you'll need to do to preserve food.

0
5606d03e11e090889629c76eb9777307

on February 01, 2012
at 12:57 PM

Anywhere you go in Europe you won't find the eggs in the fridge - they just hang out on the shelves next to the flour! We're all still live n' kickin'!

0
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 01, 2012
at 12:05 PM

Sure, beneficial yeast and bacterial growth are a good thing. But they're likely to be toxic and pathogenic as well. Buying, not producing your food, you're not going to know what the quality is.

Sounds like you're teetering on the edge of reenactment territory. It's 2012, not 10000 BC.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 03:02 PM

I'm not looking for reenactment, I just like to give thought about how things have been done in the past. For example, fruit goes bad faster in the fridge, so I generally don't refrigerate it. Just looking for a broader understanding - and a way to cut energy costs. Still, I appreciate your input, Matt. =)

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:03 PM

Wow, down-voted for advocating prudent food handling... ;)

0
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on January 31, 2012
at 09:35 PM

In one of my first-year microbiology labs we swabbed meat that had been out for every 30 minutes for the first 24 hours, then every day for the next five days...I would recommend the fridge. It's gets gnarly pretty fast.

Also, you are not going to get any real physiological benefit from leaving food out- leftovers, unless they have specifically been prepared for fermentation, aren't going to get a beautiful flora going, probably just increase your likelihood of getting food poisoning.

Eggs are fine to leave out for the most part (I've let our sit in the hot hen house over the weekend if no one is collecting), but again, you're not going to get any benefits. I don't think refrigeration is a very big deal, it's mostly just there to slow bacterial growth. That said, I live in a super chilly apartment, so I store things on the window ledges if the fridge is too full. Sometimes it's colder there than the fridge, as many a frozen egg has been cracked into a pan.

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