In the corner of our kitchen, we have a five cubic foot chest freezer, two-thirds full of an impressive array of meat and fish. Or at least we did, until this afternoon.

Our chest freezer, "pre-incident."

The former contents of our chest freezer.

Chest freezers are glorious things. They’re inexpensive. They last forever (Faux fact: you are 34 times more likely to know someone who inherited his great-grandfather’s chest freezer than you are to know someone whose chest freezer broke). The storage capacity of a chest freezer puts your refrigerator’s freezer to shame. You can save tons of money by buying high-quality meat in bulk: a five cubic foot freezer can hold nearly 150 pounds of meat! They also complement any décor. Just kidding. They’re ugly.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I pulled a large salmon fillet out of the chest freezer and found it… thawed.

My first thought was how unlucky we must be to have bought the only defective chest freezer ever manufactured on the face of this planet. And the irony was not lost on me that only one week ago, I teased J for leaving a thermometer in the chest freezer in order to verify the temperature. “Come on,” I laughed. “Chest freezers never break. What are you worried about?” I was about to eat a big old slice of humble pie.

Then I noticed the temperature dial was turned to the “Off” setting. What?! I suddenly remembered that a few days ago, I had seen Oliver admiring that dial. I didn’t think he’d actually moved it, but I guess he had.

I was furious — not at anyone in particular (least of all Oliver); just with the situation. With the colossal waste of money and food; the waste of farming and fishing resources; the futility of J’s recent hours-long effort in cleaning, filleting and vacuum-sealing four huge sockeye salmon.

I closed the freezer and took Oliver to the beach for the morning. What was done was done, and I wasn’t going to be able to tackle the clean-up until Oliver was safely tucked into his crib for a nap.

When we returned from the beach, I saw this update from our Community Supported Fishery, explaining that it was anyone’s best guess as to whether there would be any more fresh sockeye salmon this summer. So now, not only did we lose all the beautiful fish we already had, but we probably weren’t even going to be able to replace it. Great.

I put Oliver down for his nap, and opened the freezer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the salmon, while completely thawed, was actually much colder than I’d previously thought it was. The three fillets closest to the top of the freezer were going to need to be cooked right away, but they didn’t need to be thrown out! The ones underneath were most definitely still colder than refrigerator temperature, and I decided to re-freeze them (Disclaimer: this goes against every food safety rule out there, so don’t follow my example!).

Five fillets into the freezer, and three into the fridge.

Five fillets into the freezer, and three into the fridge.

Sadly, all of the meat was a write-off. The meat that had been stored in the upper hanging basket had thawed completely, and then dripped all over everything below. Because the salmon was vacuum sealed, it remained clean, but all the paper-wrapped meat was a bloody, soggy mess and had to be discarded.

About 100 pounds of meat. All garbage :(.

About 100 pounds of meat. All garbage.

Our freezer had been stocked with a huge assortment of grass-fed, pastured beef, lamb, goat and pork. About 100 pounds of meat in all. To have to throw all of this meat in the garbage felt so disrespectful to the animals who lost their lives.

After removing all the meat, I was left with an icy, bloody puddle in the bottom of the freezer.

The photo does not do the grossness justice!

The photo does not do the grossness justice!

Two hours later, the freezer was clean, sanitized and dry. I turned it back on and closed the lid, washed the kitchen floor, and then covered the temperature dial with a lovely piece of duct tape, in order to prevent further tampering by curious toddler hands.

Later, we sat down to a delicious dinner of Nass River sockeye salmon and Greek salad. So far, nobody’s gotten sick…


  1. I can commiserate. I have almost lost a freezer full, but decided to turn it back on with a load of frosty stores, and face the consequences. It was a toddler twiddlin’ dilemma also. PS I lost cold in the same freezer after a mechanical malfunction, which required me ditching a few litres of newborn milk. Was very sad….

    • I think if I’d caught this even a day earlier, I probably could have gotten away with turning it back on. But once that meat up top thawed and leaked everywhere, it was game over 😦

  2. I totally feel your pain. Came home from the long weekend to the exact same bloody floor of my freezer. All that moose, deer, halibut and salmon. Gone. I almost cried.

  3. I know this isn’t exactly the same thing, but we came home from a long weekend away and I found our upstairs freezer door cracked….with 145 ounces of breastmilk thawed. I cried. A lot. I was about to leave for 3 days for a conference for work and feared I was going to have to cancel. Like you, though, I ignored all advice about milk storage and refroze it–and nothing bad happened! I hope you are able to replenish your salmon supply!

  4. UGH! i want to cry for you! We have a stand-up freezer downstairs where we store our meat share meat from the farm. We had just gotten a delivery of probably 150lbs last September when our electricity went out and the electric company could not tell us when it would be back on. We ended up buying a generator for the sole purpose of keeping our meat frozen. Thankfully we did, because the electricity was off for 4 days. But, situations like this are never easy. You just have to get all Pollyanna and start counting all the blessings that are elsewhere in your life. ugh. so sorry!

    • I wanted to cry, too, when I realized what had happened 😦

      Good call on buying a generator. Whatever that cost was probably less than the loss you’d have incurred if you’d had to throw out all that meat.

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