How Many Days is Meat Good After the Sell-By Date?

It is important to understand the difference between the sell-by date and the actual expiration of meat products. While the sell-by date indicates how long a store should display the product, it does not necessarily mean the meat is no longer safe to consume. In fact, many types of meat can still be good for several days after the sell-by date if stored properly.

Generally speaking, most meats can be consumed safely up to 3-5 days after the sell-by date if refrigerated promptly and stored at the correct temperature. It is advisable to pay attention to the appearance, smell, and texture of the meat to ensure it is still fresh before consuming it. Remember to always follow proper food safety guidelines to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Knowing how long meat is good after the sell-by date is important for ensuring food safety and avoiding any potential health risks. While the sell-by date provides a guideline for retailers, it’s essential to understand that it’s not an expiration date. The freshness and quality of meat can vary depending on storage conditions and the type of meat. In this article, we will explore how many days you can safely consume meat after its sell-by date.

Understanding Sell-By Dates

Sell-by dates are typically found on meat packages and are used by retailers to ensure that products stay fresh on shelves. These dates help stores with inventory management and indicate the last day the retailer should sell the product to the customer while it is at its best quality. However, it’s important to note that the sell-by date is not an indication of the safety or edibility of the meat.

Factors Affecting Meat Quality

Several factors can impact the quality and longevity of meat, even after the sell-by date. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:

  • Storage Temperature: The temperature at which meat is stored greatly affects its lifespan. The refrigerator temperature should be set at or below 40°F (4°C) to slow down the growth of bacteria.
  • Storage Method: Proper packaging is essential for maintaining meat quality. Vacuum-sealed or airtight packaging can prevent exposure to oxygen, which can cause spoilage.
  • Meat Type: Different types of meat have varying shelf lives. Some meats, such as poultry and ground meat, tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to whole cuts of beef or pork.

Interpreting Sell-By Dates

It’s crucial to understand that sell-by dates are intended for retailers and not consumers. These dates are typically set conservatively to allow for a reasonable period of home storage after purchase.

After the sell-by date, the meat is still safe to consume as long as it has been properly stored and shows no signs of spoilage, such as an off odor or unusual texture. However, it is essential to exercise caution and use your judgment to determine the freshness of the meat.

The Sniff Test

One way to assess the freshness of meat is by using your sense of smell. If the meat has an unpleasant odor, it’s a sign that it has started to spoil and should be discarded.

Checking the Appearance

Visual cues can also help determine the quality of meat. Look for any discoloration, sliminess, or an unusual texture. If the meat appears off, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dispose of it.

Now, let’s explore how long different types of meat typically last after the sell-by date:


The shelf life of beef can vary depending on several factors, such as the cut and storage conditions. In general, whole cuts of beef, such as steaks and roasts, can be safely consumed 3-5 days after the sell-by date if properly stored in the refrigerator. Ground beef, on the other hand, should be consumed within 1-2 days.


Poultry, including chicken and turkey, is more perishable compared to beef. It’s important to consume poultry within 1-2 days after the sell-by date. Additionally, it’s crucial to cook poultry thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to eliminate any harmful bacteria.


Pork, like beef, can last 3-5 days after the sell-by date when stored correctly. It’s essential to store pork in the refrigerator at the recommended temperature to maintain its quality.


Seafood can be highly perishable and requires proper handling to ensure food safety. Fish and shellfish should be consumed within 1-2 days after the sell-by date. It’s crucial to keep seafood refrigerated and cook it thoroughly before consuming.

While sell-by dates serve as guidelines for retailers, they should not be considered strict expiration dates. It’s essential to trust your senses and assess meat’s freshness based on its appearance and odor. By following proper storage guidelines and using your judgment, you can safely consume meat after the sell-by date. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and dispose of any meat that shows signs of spoilage.

Remember to store meat properly, maintain appropriate temperatures, and always cook it to the recommended internal temperatures to ensure food safety.

The freshness and safety of meat after the sell-by date can vary depending on factors such as storage conditions and meat type. It is important to use your judgment and consider the appearance, smell, and texture of the meat before consuming it. When in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and discard meat that is past its sell-by date to prevent foodborne illness.

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