Originally Posted by Michael in FtW
...the rate of freezing is far less significant than the packaging.
That's very true, especially when it comes to the sort of problems described in this thread. Nonetheless, freezing, especially home freezing, is simply not good for meat, regardless of how well the meat's packaged. I find that freezing affects both taste and texture of the meat. That's not so noticeable in a stew or pot roast or something similar, but it's unacceptable to me in steak.
Freezing damages food because it causes the water in the individual cells to expand and rupture, making the item noticeably mushy when it is unfrozen and eaten. Flash freezing, such as done in commercial slaughter houses immediately after the meat is butchered, is less of a problem. Flash freezing uses extremely low temperatures and freezes the meat in seconds, generally in special cryogenic packaging. Because it's so quick, flash freezing has less affect on meat (the water freezes too quickly to rupture the cells), although cellular damage can occur as the meat is defrosted.
It's also important to realize that regardless of how it's done, freezing does not stop the deterioration of food -- it only slows it down. It hinders the growth of germs, but it does not necessarily kill them, and naturally occurring enzymes continue to break down the food, albeit more slowly. The bottom line is that frozen food is good for only a few months, especially if the temperature in the freezer is allowed to rise above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (e.g., by frequently opening the freezer door).
In any case, based on a lifetime of experience with frozen foods, I won't pay $10 a pound and up for any meat that's been frozen. (Shrimp is an exception -- virtually all shrimp in the market is flash frozen.) But, I live in a large metropolitan area, so plenty of nearby markets and butcher shops are always available. If I had to drive 30 miles to buy my meat, I'd probably compromise by having fewer steaks and more stews -- which I like at least equally well. (My dad was a steak freak, and we ate it so often when I was a kid that I got tired of it, so now it's got to be really special for me to sit up and say "Wow!").