How to Tell if Ground Beef is Bad? – Tips to Ensure Ground Beef Lasts Longer

  • By: Brendan

Ground beef on sale, bulk buys, family packs, oh boy, they’re so tempting, but now I’ve got myself in a pickle—my full-size freezer in my garage is loaded with ground beef, and some of the packages are starting to look and smell funny!

Ground beef lasts roughly three to four months in the freezer, but the labels on the packages are worn out, so figuring out the date of manufacture and expiry at this point is near impossible.

That begs the big question—how to tell if ground beef is bad? Well, there are several sure-shot ways of determining if ground beef is bad like odd color, flimsy texture, and/or a funky smell.

How to Tell if Ground Beef is Bad


How to Tell if Ground Beef is Bad? – 4 Simple Ways

There are four tell-tale signs that your ground beef is ready for the bin.

1. Odd Greyish Brown Color

The color of ground beef can change due to many factors such as light, temperature exposure to oxygen and microbial growth.

Have you noticed that fresh ground beef is bright red, owing to its levels of oxymyoglobin—a single chain globular protein that reacts with oxygen?

The interior of fresh ground beef however isn’t exposed to oxygen, therefore it isn’t red, but a greyish brown color.

If your ground beef has turned either gray or brown on the outside, it signals that the meet is beginning to rot, so your best bet is to throw it away.

2. Flimsy Texture

Another great way to tell if ground beef is bad is by checking its texture. Fresh ground beef breaks apart easily when you squeeze it, and has a firm consistency.

Ground beef that has a sticky or slimy texture indicates the onset of spoilage bacteria, so you should discard it immediately before the bacteria spreads to other areas.

3. Smells Funny

Whether it’s ground beef or any type of food, you already know what to do if it smells bad!

Bad Smell of Rotten Ground Beef

Even though the smell of ground beef is barely noticeable, bad ground beef will emit a tangy, putrid odor, so it’s no longer safe to eat.

This change in smell occurs due to the increase in spoilage bacteria, which also affects the flavor of the beef.

4. Check the Expiration Date

As mentioned earlier, for me this wasn’t an option, but the expiration date or sell-by date can help you figure out if the ground beef is good or bad.

You may also notice a “best before” date, which indicates when the product is likely to start going bad.


Can I Eat Ground Beef That Has Gone Bad?

I’m not going to sugarcoat this but it’s strongly advisable to steer clear from raw or spoiled ground beef.

Bad ground beef, regardless of the reason it went bad, becomes tainted with insidious bacteria.

Even though our bodies are loaded with strong acids, they don’t have the strength to kill these bacteria, which then multiply inside your body at an exponential rate, and then cause food poisoning.

The amount of time you take to develop symptoms from these harmful bacteria depends largely on the type of bacteria.

For example, you may experience symptoms from Staphylococcus aureus as early as an hour after eating, and not for a month if you’re affected by Listeria monocytogenes.


How Long Does Beef Last Before Going Bad?

When you buy beef at the store, it’s important to pay attention to the “sell by date” on the label. Fresh beef will last one to two days after the “sell by date”, but there is other information to take into account.

The shelf life of beef depends on a variety of factors like the preparation method, sell by date, and how the beef was stored.

Beef is a culinary name for meat from domestic cattle, and goes by many different names based on the cut, ranging from hamburger to tender juicy meats like expensive filet mignon.

The common element between all cuts of beef is that they are rich in fat and cholesterol, and also protein and iron.

You can freeze uncooked cuts of beef for several months in the freezer without sacrificing quality.

Steaks can be stored for six to twelve months, and cuts like roasts can be frozen between four to twelve months. You can freeze ground beef for no more than three to four months.


Tips to Ensure Ground Beef Lasts Longer

1. Storing the Ground Beef in Freezer

The best way to make ground beef last longer is by storing it in the freezer, and the good news is that you don’t need a vacuum sealer to safely freeze meat. However, I do recommend getting a good vacuum sealer to ensure the beef is sealed airtight.

2. Buy the Highest Quality Ground Beef

I can’t stress this enough, but buying the best quality product goes a long way. The quality of the beef you buy plays a pivotal role towards its shelf life.

When you purchase beef at the store or from your local butcher, be sure to check the shelf life, and buy meat that has the farthest date from purchase.


Final Thoughts

If you feel ground beef has gone bad, the best advice I can give is to dispose it properly. There are several ways to tell if ground beef has gone bad including by checking its color, smelling it for bad odor, and feeling its texture.

Additionally, if you buy beef in bulk, make sure to label the individual packages with the expiration or use by date to determine if the ground beef is still good for consumption.

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