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How To Tell If Ground Meat Has Gone Bad

Your ground meat may have already gone bad before the spoilage date and here's how you can tell.

Your newly bought pack of ground meat smells bad and you’re unsure as to why. Here are some things you can do to check to see if your meat is fresh to eat.

Ground Meat plated next to garlic, spices and herbs.
Pictured Ground Meat – Fresh to eat {/Shutterstock]

Even if you went to the grocery store today and decided to cook the meat you just purchased, there’s a chance it has already gone bad.

Of course, you don’t want to be wasteful or make a trip back to the store to replace the meat, but if it smells off, it usually is.


Using the “best by”, “sell by”, “use by”, or “expires on” dates can indicate the level of freshness but it’s not the only indicator you should pay attention to.

Culinary professionals recommend assessing your own ground meat by using these four methods.


1. Check the Color to determine if the meat has gone bad.

The first freshness test can be done by simply looking at the meat color. In general, ground meat should be a varied shade of red or pink. According to the USDA, slight discoloration is natural, but the product package itself may also indicate spoilage.

The color of the meat varies based on the animal it comes from, but in general if the color doesn’t appear to be greyish or blueish, then it passes the color test and freshness should then be tested based on the texture.


2. Check the Texture to determine if the meat is still good.

Meat that is fresh should be relatively firm and can break apart when you squeeze it. According to Healthline, If the meat has a slimy consistency, when cooked or raw, this is an indicator that the meat has gone bad and should be tossed immediately.

Avoid spreading bacteria between surfaces by washing your hands after touching.

3. Perform a Smell Test.

Meat that has gone bad can put you at risk for getting sick, especially If you’ve opened the package and the meat appears to have a distinctive fishy smell.

Once ground meat has gone bad, the smell becomes stronger and it’s no longer safe to eat.

If it smells okay, but has signs of discoloration, chances are the meat is still spoiled and should not be eaten.

4. Check the “use by” dates.

As mentioned before, using the “best by”, “sell by”, “use by”, or “expires on” that are labeled on the product can help to identify if the meat has gone bad or not, but it shouldn’t be the sole information used and should always be assessed before consumption.

Even if the dates labeled have not passed, it’s important to note that these labels are indicators and things such as stored temperature, length of stored item, transportation and other variables could contribute to early spoilage dates.

If you’ve every purchased meat immediately from the grocery store and decided to cook it same day and felt like the smell, color, or texture was off, chances are it is and you shouldn’t risk getting sick. Toss it or replace it.

**Information in this article has been collected and combined with thoughts of my own, expert advice, and information provided by the USDA, Healthline, and the Food Network. Use your own discretion when consuming poultry and assessing spoilage.**

Mykel B Davis

Mykel B Davis


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