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How Long Is Ground Beef Good for After Sell by Date

How Long Is Ground Beef Good for After Sell by Date

You purchased a package of ground beef on your latest trip to the grocery store. You placed the parcel of ground beef into your fridge.

Two days later, you were preparing to cook the ground beef; you noticed that the sell-by date was expired.

You start to wonder whether the ground beef is even good after the sell-by date and if you can still cook it.

Expiration Date

To answer how long ground beef lasts after the sell-by date, we have to address the elephant in the room: expiration dates.

Most people assume that expiration dates are cut and dry and that you have to get rid of the food on the date printed on the package.

However, The FDA only requires expiration dates for infant formula. The FDA does not make expiration dates mandatory for any other food product.

Most food products feature a product date because local agencies require them. There are different types of food product dates.

For example, the best before or best if used by dates indicate how long the food product is expected to maintain its peak quality and flavor.

Therefore, it has nothing to do with food safety, and you don’t have to discard the products past the date as long as they are stored properly.

The sell-by date lets the vendor know how long a package of ground beef can sit in the meat display case.

Again, this date has nothing to do with food safety. It estimates the producer’s best guess as to the last day the ground beef can be displayed.

How Long Is Ground Beef Good for After Sell by Date?

Ground Beef Sell By Date

Ground beef is usually sold in 1-2 pound packages. It is divided into packages within 3 days after the steer was killed. However, it can last longer if it is stored properly.

How long ground beef lasts after the sell-by date depends on how it was handled once it left the grocery store.

For example, if the ground beef is allowed to sit in your car for 4 hours, it may not last until the sell-by date.

However, if you went home immediately after purchasing the ground beef, it is likely to last a few days after the sell-by date.

On average, ground beef will last 2-3 days after the sell-by day. The beef should be stored at or below 33°F.

If you freeze the ground beef on the day the sell-by date expires, it will last for 3-4 weeks in the freezer.

Whether or not the sell-by date is passed, if the ground beef shows signs of spoilage, do not eat it. Toss it in the trash.

How Do I Know if Ground Beef Is Spoiled?

Meat consists primarily of water. Therefore, ground beef is the perfect environment for bacteria to develop.

Ground beef can spoil faster because grinding it in a meat grinder increases its surface area. 

The increased surface area causes the ground beef to spoil faster, especially if it’s not stored correctly.

Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp, and Listeria; are the most common bacteria that thrive in ground beef. These pathogens can cause sickness if you eat spoiled or undercooked ground beef.

This is why it’s essential to know how to tell if ground beef is bad.

Luckily there are specific signs that you can look for to tell if your ground beef has spoiled.


The ground beef’s color can tell you whether it is fresh or spoiled. Fresh, good-quality ground beef has a bright red color.

The meat pigment oxymyoglobin creates a vivid red color. 

When oxymyoglobin is exposed to oxygen, it produces a bright red color on the surface of the ground beef. 

Although most people mistake the red liquid at the bottom of a package of ground beef for blood, it is actually oxymyoglobin.

Since the interior of the ground beef has no contact with oxygen, you may notice that it has a gray, brownish color.

Most people assume the brown-gray color is a sign of spoilage. However, the ground beef is still safe to consume.

If the ground beef’s exterior color is brown or gray, then this is cause for concern.

This brown or gray color on the meat’s external service means that it has started to spoil.

Furthermore, if you notice mold growing on the surface of your ground beef, discard it immediately. If you consume moldy beef, you could end up with food poisoning.


You can also feel the ground beef’s texture to determine if it’s spoiled or fresh. 

Fresh ground beef should have a firm consistency that breaks apart when you squeeze it with your hands. 

In contrast, bacteria can generate a sticky flame. This slime will form on the meat’s surface, giving it a sticky texture.

If your ground beef has a slimy, slippery, or sticky texture, it is spoiled and must be discarded immediately.

In addition to this, wash your hands and all surfaces that the ground beef touches with hot soapy water to decrease cross-contamination.


You can also give your ground beef the old sniff test to determine if it is rotten or fresh. Fresh ground beef has a relatively faint metallic smell. 

It should not be robust or make you recoil away from the meat.

A repulsive odor is a tell-tale sign that ground beef is probably spoiled and needs to be discarded immediately.

Furthermore, even though the ground beef may not have an odor, the color or texture may be off.

Therefore, you should toss the ground beef in the trash; if there is one sign that it is spoiled.

Final Thoughts

How long ground beef lasts after the sell-by date is somewhat of a controversial topic as it makes you question the validity of product dates.

Ground beef can last 2-3 days after the sell-by date expires.

If you toss the ground beef in the freezer, it will last even longer. However, if you do not store the ground beef properly, it will spoil faster, regardless of the sell-by date.

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