Does UPS Ship Frozen Food?

Finding a reliable carrier for perishable goods is a nightmare for eCommerce founders. The cost of insulated packaging, carrier rates, and dry ice is enough to question the value of the entire operation. Not to mention, there’s food safety regulations and other compliance measures that must be factored in.

But above all, you want a reliable frozen shipping solution. And as one of the world’s leading shipping companies, few are more qualified than UPS.

Does UPS Ship Frozen Food?

Yes, UPS can ship frozen food across the United States and even internationally via UPS Next Day Air®, Second Day Air®, and 3 Day Select®. They offer multiple temperature-sensitive shipping solutions for frozen food, beverages, and other perishables to your customers or vendors. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of your frozen shipping options:

Temperature-Sensitive Shipping Solutions

UPS Temperature True® provides reliable packaging for frozen food and other temperature-sensitive goods. Known as the Med 500 boxes, these can maintain frozen temperatures for 3-4 days thanks to vacuum insulation panels (VIP), leaving plenty of time to ship it from your business to the end customer.

You’re welcome to use your own insulated packaging, but the UPS packaging does offer a few unique benefits:

Source: UPS Temperature True®

For more urgent needs, UPS Express Critical® ensures your products reach your customers as soon as possible without sacrificing the frozen quality.

Refrigeration Materials

Dry ice is the most common way to ship frozen foods over long distances via UPS. However, there are quantity limitations and labeling requirements, especially if you’re shipping internationally.

But before you pack any food orders, you need to wrap them in water-tight plastics or containers to prevent any leakage or exposure to dry ice.

Dry ice begins to sublimate (transition directly from solid state to gas state) as soon as it’s removed from its original storage container. Generally, this occurs at a rate of 5-10 pounds per 24 hours. But dry ice is quite expensive, typically $1.00 - $3.00 per pound. Reflecting on the standard 1, 2, and 3-day shipping options with UPS, this is what you should expect:

Of course, these are just estimates for the dry ice costs alone. But according to UPS, they’ll compensate you for additional dry ice if your shipment is delayed.

Dry ice aside, the total shipping cost will vary based on your package weight, dimensions, and temperature requirements, as well as origin & destination locations. If you ship enough packages with UPS, you can access per-package savings and secure contracts for high-volume shippers. Or you can use a perishable goods shipping aggregator like ShipFare, and guarantee yourself the best rates & routes available. 

Get the Best Frozen Food Shipping Rates

You also have to comply with 49 CFR 173.217 regulations for domestic packages. International frozen food shipments require a signed International Special Commodities (ISC) contract between your business and UPS, as well as strict adherence to IATA Packing Instructions 954 set by the International Civil Aviation Organization. 

Many eCommerce brands have shifted towards gel packs for foods that just require refrigeration. They’re a cost-effective alternative to dry ice, but aren’t able to sustain freezing temperatures. 

Food Safety Compliance & Regulations

There are plenty of barriers to shipping perishable goods as an eCommerce brand. And though sky-high shipping costs and seemingly constant delays are frustrating, they’re nothing compared to the regulatory red tape. But unfortunately, these compliance measures are unavoidable – they ensure that frozen products are handled, stored, and transported in a manner that safeguards public health.

At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a key role, enforcing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA has specific standards related to the sanitary transportation of human and animal food that apply to transportation equipment, vehicles, operations, training, and record keeping.

State-level regulations can add an additional layer of complexity. Each state in the U.S. may have its own set of rules and agencies overseeing food safety. For instance, some states have specific temperature monitoring requirements for vehicles transporting frozen food.

If you’re shipping food internationally, say to Canada,,you must also consider the regulations of the destination country. These can include import permits, health certificates, and specific labeling requirements, such as listing ingredients in the language of the destination country.

But red tape shouldn’t discourage you, especially not when you have ShipFare in your corner. As a leading cold chain logistics provider, you can easily manage all of your domestic licenses & permits, as well as international customs compliance, all from a central dashboard.

Best Practices for Shipping Frozen Food with UPS

Packaging Tips

Packing your frozen food is not as simple as throwing some dry ice in a box and calling it a day. Without proper insulation, the dry ice will sublimate sooner than expected and the food may spoil. You can use the Med 500 boxes provided by UPS, styrofoam boxes, or insulated liners, all of which provide excellent thermal protection.

Organize your products within the box to minimize air pockets. Add a layer of dry ice to the bottom of the package, then layer the food & dry ice like lasagna to create a uniform internal environment. You can line the edges with foam or bubble wrap if there’s extra space, which will offer additional protection & insulation.

Seal your packages effectively to preserve internal temperature and prevent contamination risks. Use pressure-sensitive adhesive tape, which remains sticky even under extreme conditions. Be sure to avoid water-activated tapes that can lose adhesion when wet.

Clearly label your packages as perishable, indicating necessary storage conditions. This informs handlers of special care requirements and aids in quick and proper handling upon arrival.

Finally, make sure to accurately weigh and measure your packed boxes to avoid unexpected shipping fees and to select the most cost-effective service based on your package’s size and weight.

Scheduling & Timing

You can’t control when an order is placed, but you have full control over when it’s shipped. Choose your shipping days wisely to minimize transit time. Aim to ship early in the week, avoiding weekend delays that can compromise the quality of your frozen products. Familiarize yourself with the cut-off times for different UPS service levels and plan your shipment preparation accordingly, ensuring your packages are ready for timely pickup or drop-off.

Monitor seasonal factors and holiday schedules, especially around Black Friday/Cyber Monday and between Christmas & New Years, as these can impact delivery times significantly. Keep your customers in the loop and set clear delivery expectations upfront to minimize customer service complaints. Lastly, coordinate with UPS for potential scheduled pickups, optimizing your operations around a consistent and reliable timetable.

Mitigating Risks

Invest in comprehensive shipping insurance to protect your bottom line in case of product loss or damage during transit. Regularly review and update your insurance coverage to align with the value of your shipments. Use UPS’s tracking solutions to closely monitor your shipments in real time; this enables swift action if issues arise. Clearly communicate with your customers about potential delays, offering transparency and solutions when problems occur.

UPS isn’t the only frozen shipping carrier, and you may need to find alternative shipping carriers or routes to maintain operations during unexpected disruptions. Again, ShipFare’s aggregator platform can help you monitor these carriers to get the lowest & fastest rates. And finally, train your staff (or 3PL) in best practices for packaging and documentation to reduce the chance of human error. There’s only so much you can control on your end, but you want to make sure you get every bit of that right.

Alternatives to UPS for Frozen Food Shipping


FedEx is a viable alternative to UPS for shipping your frozen food. They offer a range of temperature-controlled shipping solutions through their Custom Critical service. This service provides a dedicated fleet just for your business, giving you direct, door-to-door delivery with exclusive use of a singular cargo van, straight truck, or tractor trailer – it’s only your perishable goods on board.

Originating from one of five cold chain cross-dock facilities across the US, you’ll have access to a robust tracking system for constant, up-to-the-minute monitoring and extra security.


USPS is another option to consider for short haul, domestic shipments. There are no vehicles in their fleet that offer refrigeration or temperature control, which means the responsibility falls entirely on you to ensure there’s enough dry ice to last until the customer receives the package.