What Size Freezer Should You Use For Elk?

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You did it. You successfully harvested an elk! Now, after field dressing, skinning, quartering, and finally transporting your prized game to your home, it’s time to store all that elk. Let’s hope your freezer is big enough! Now, admittedly this is something you should consider before your next elk hunt. That’s what this article is about – what size of freezer do you need?

What Size Chest Freezer for Big Bull?

The answer is a minimum of 7 cubic feet! A 500 pounds bull will give you around 250 pounds of meat. Roughly 50 percent of meat is what you can expect after the field-dressing, quartering, and deboning process. We are talking about a lot of meat!

To be on the safe side, and depending on how often you are going to hunt, you should have a chest freezer with a volume of at least 7 cubic feet to store a big elk bull (deboned and if you stack it in there correctly). 

University of Wyoming: “The Elk Carcass – August 2003”

The University of Wyoming published research about how much boneless meat you can expect when processing elk harvested by hunters: 

1 According to a mail-in survey by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the proportion of bulls including spikes, cows, and calves harvested in Wyoming in 2001 was 48.1, 43.7, and 8.2 percent, respectively.
2 From Hay, et al. (1961)
3 The field-dressed weight times 50 percent is equal to the weight of boneless meat. Because field-dressed weights often vary within age class, boneless meat yield can also vary as much as 20 pounds from the averages listed.
4 The percentage of calves and 1½ and 2½-year-old hunter-harvested animals from 115 hunt areas throughout
Wyoming in 2001 is based on the age structure of 4,185 field-checked animals. Wyoming Game and Fish laboratory tooth-ring data from hunter-harvested animals 3½ years and older were used to calculate the percentage in each age class over 2½ years because accurate ages for older animals are difficult to determine at check stations. 

Source – see footnote 1

How Many cu/ft Freezer for Elk? 

On average, one cubic foot of freezer space can hold 35-40 pounds of packaged meat. So, if you would be taking 250 pounds of boneless meat home from a 500-pound bull (MASSIVE!!), you would need a freezer with approximately 6-7 cubic feet of freezer space. The meat needs to be boned out, at least the bones on the quarters need to be trimmed. 

But, you have to take into consideration that your cuts of meat are not going to be perfectly symmetrical, hence you are going to want some extra space too. A freezer of 7 cubic feet will do the job! 

Boned Out Meat – Size of Freezer

Boneless Meat lbsCubic Feet Freezer*
501.43 cu ft
1002.86 cu ft
1504.29 cu ft
2005.71 cu ft
2507.14 cu ft
3008.57 cu ft
35010 cu ft

*based on the assumption – 35 pounds of packaged meat per one cubic foot

What is the Smallest Freezer Recommended for Elk? 

This depends on the size of elk you can harvest. But let’s say you end up with roughly 200 pounds of meat. As mentioned above, one cubic foot of freezer space can hold 35-40 pounds of packaged meat. That would mean that you need to have a least a 5-6  cubic feet chest freezer in order to store your cut meat. So I would recommend an absolute minimum of 6 cubic feet. 

The good thing is, such a freezer won’t use much space or energy, and they are not so expensive. If you are on a budget, I would highly recommend it. 

How Much Can a 5 Cubic Foot Freezer Hold? 

A 5 cubic foot freezer holds approximately 175 pounds. So, if you take home 175 pounds of elk meat, your freezer will be full. If it’s boned out that is. 

What are the Best Freezers for Elk? 

Frigidaire FFFC09M1RW8.7 Cu. Ft. White...

Frigidaire – 7 cubic feet

There are many different brands available in the market today. For those of you who hunt a lot and harvest a lot of elk meat, I’d say that any freezer with less than 7 cubic feet won’t meet your needs, and perhaps even seven cubic feet won’t be enough. And most likely you will not only store your harvested game meat in your freezer but also other things you have bought at the store. 

ADT makes some affordable deep freezers, so does Moosoo, or Frigidaire. There are many others. If you’re on a budget, maybe it would be best to look into used freezers available on Craig’s list or eBay. 

Recommended Procedure for Handling Elk Carcasses

Source – see footnote 1

Freezer Size – Should I Use A Chest Or Stand-Up?

Stand-Up Freezer

Upright Freezers take up less floor space and all the shelves make it easier to find stuff. But you are losing storage room (up to 20%) and the temperature isn’t as consistent as with a chest freezer. 

Chest Freezer 

Chest freezers are the optimal choice if you are going to store your elk for longer periods of time. They are more cost-efficient compared to standing freezers because they won’t lose as much cold due to the fact that their main door is on top. Another benefit is that the air is circulating less – helping to prevent freezer burn. 

Also, you have more effectively usable space in a chest freezer. In fact, up to 20% more (Link: https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/freezers/buying-guide/index.htm). The temperature stays consistently lower since they don’t self-defrost

The only downside of a chest freezer is that you won’t be able to access all your meat as easily. You’ll need to “dig” through all the stuff before reaching an item buried at the very bottom.  


Q: How much meat will a 5 cubic foot freezer hold?

A: A 5 cubic foot freezer can hold approximately 175 pounds of meat.

Q: What is the smallest freezer recommended for elk?

A: The smallest freezer recommended for elk is a 5 cubic foot freezer. A 5 cubic foot freezer can hold approximately 175 pounds of meat.

Q: How much meat will a 7 cubic foot freezer hold?

A: A 7 cubic foot freezer can hold up to 350 pounds of meat. If you are boning out your meat, you will need a larger freezer.

Q: What is the best freezer for elk?

A: The best freezer for elk is a chest freezer. Chest freezers are more cost-efficient and have a more consistent temperature than stand-up freezers. They also have more effectively usable space.

Chest Freezer vs. Upright Freezer: Which is better?

Chest Freezer: Opt for a chest freezer for longer storage periods. They are cost-efficient, maintain consistent temperatures, and prevent freezer burn,

Upright Freezer: While upright freezers save floor space, they may lose up to 20% of storage room and have less consistent temperatures.

How much meat can a good freezer hold?

On average, one cubic foot of freezer space can hold 35-40 pounds of packaged meat.

If you’re taking home around 250 pounds of boneless elk meat, a 6-7 cubic feet chest freezer is ideal. 

What size freezer should I use for elk meat?

Minimum Size
: A 7 cubic feet freezer is recommended for storing a large elk bull (deboned and properly stacked).

Consider Extra Space: Elk cuts are not perfectly symmetrical, so having some extra space is advisable. A 7 cubic feet freezer should suffice.

Label and Organize: Label packages with the date and type of meat to keep track.

Freeze at 0°F or Below: Store elk meat in the freezer at or below 0°F.

How long can I store elk meat in the freezer?

Elk meat can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months if it’s properly wrapped and stored at 0°F or below

Footnote 1

Graphic and table have taken from “The Elk Carcass” B-594R – Publication from August 2003 -Accessed by us: September 27th, 2021 – URL: https://www.wyoextension.org/agpubs/pubs/B-594R.pdf

R.A. Field, Professor Emeritus of Meat Science, University of Wyoming
F.C. Smith, Retired Meat Inspector, Wyoming Department of Agriculture
W.G. Hepworth, Past Director of Technical Research, Wyoming Game and Fish Department
W.J. Means, Associate Professor of Meat Science, University of Wyoming 

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