How Can You Tell if Your Meat is Still Fresh?

Apr 06, 2017

You open your fridge and reach for your favorite cut of meat. As you are unwrapping it you look down at the product date on the package and see that the date has already passed.  You inspect the meat looking to see if it still looks fresh. Can the meat still be good, even if the date on the package has passed?

Looking at your local meat counter you can see a variety of dates stamped onto the package. Some say use by, while other say sell by, and some just simply have a date printed. What do these different terms mean in relation to the freshness of the product?

Open Date or Simple Calendar Date

These dates are mostly used on products to help stores rotate and display products properly. Sometimes these dates are accompanied by “Best if used by.” This is simply recommending you to eat the product on or before this date.

Sell-By Date

This date is used as a reference for the store to know how long to display the product for. After the date has passed the product can still be consumed using your best judgement on the freshness of the product. It can also be frozen to preserve freshness.

Use-By Date

This date is the last recommended day for use of or freezing of the product. After this date has passed, it is not recommended to consume or use the product. This date is determined by the manufacture and offers the most accurate dating system.

You do not have to rely solely on these dates, but it is recommended that you pay attention and follow them closely. If a product has a use by or sell by date follow those instructions to provide the freshest, best tasting product.

The best rule to follow when unsure if a product is still safe to eat, is “When in doubt, throw it out.” If the product gives off any odor, even if it hasn’t reached the date on the package you should throw it away. Strong odors are a good way to tell if the product is still fresh or not. If the product has been tightly sealed and there is a bulge or air pocket the product should be thrown out as the added gas is a sign of spoilage. If the product has been frozen the date no longer applies and the meat can stay fresh for a longer period of time. For a table on how long meat will stay frozen and how to properly freeze a product check out this article.


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