Most people inspect the package for the sell-by date when buying fresh pork. This date lets us know how much time we have before we have to cook the meat.
However, is the sell-by-date really the best indicator of pork’s shelf life? How can we really know how long pork is good after the sell-by date?
What Types of Dates Are Used on Food Products?
As you have probably discovered, sell-by is not the only label you will see on pork. You will also see best by, best if used by, expiration date, freeze-by, or use-by on packages of pork.
All of these labels can be confusing; that’s why you must know the differences between these dates.
Additionally, none of the product dates mentioned below are indicators of food safety.
Best by or best if used by product dates refers to food products that will have the best flavor and texture if they are consumed by a specific date.
The use-by date represents the last day the pork will be at its peak quality and is determined by the distributors of the meat.
The sell-by date is actually designed for the store employees and not the consumer.
It lets the employees know how long the pork or food should be displayed to consumers. Therefore, it is designed for inventory management.
Lastly, the freeze-by date indicates the last day the pork should be frozen to ensure it maintains peak quality status.
Nevertheless, all fresh meat, including pork, will inevitably spoil, so cook it as soon as you can once you buy it.
What Is Food Product Dating?
Just because the sell-by date on a package of raw pork has expired does not mean it is not safe to consume.
Furthermore, meat companies are not required by the federal government to add product dates to meats.
Therefore, meat producers make estimations as to when the product will spoil and provide this information voluntarily for quality purposes.
There are two kinds of food product dating: open and closed dating. Open dating refers to a strategy used by retailers and manufacturers.
It entails placing an estimated calendar date of how long specific products such as pork will remain in top quality condition.
Essentially open product dates will tell the retailer or distributor how long food can remain on the shelf.
In contrast, closed dating is only used by manufacturers. The closed date consists of letters and numbers that form a code. This code indicates the time and dates the food was produced.
Usually, retailers use open dating for meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs, while closed dating is used for canned or boxed products such as cereal or green beans.
How Long Is Pork Good for After Sell-by Date?
Most people will advise you to freeze or cook raw pork within 3-4 days after it is purchased. However, ground pork needs to be frozen or cooked within 2 days.
The truth is it is difficult to estimate how long pork may last after the sell-by date has passed.
Because the retailer estimates them, they are not a reliable way to determine food safety.
The general consensus is that pork will last 1-2 days once the sell-by date passes.
However, it could last up to 5 days by the sell date, depending on how it is stored.
Typically, pork roasts such as pork tenderloin, pork shoulder, pork butt, or loin roast will last longer than ground pork. Pork chops or blade steaks will probably last 3-5 days.
However, raw ground pork, including fresh sausage, should be cooked 1-2 days after the sell-by date.
How To Store Pork
Even though you can safely eat pork after the sell-by date has passed, you must properly store and handle the pork.
All meats, including pork, should be stored in the refrigerator at or below 40°F.
If raw pork is left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it will become tainted with too much bacteria rendering it unsafe for consumption.
Make sure you wrap the pork tightly. If there is too much air circulation, the pork will spoil faster.
Store the raw pork in the coldest part of the fridge. This means you should place your pork bottom shelf closer to the back of the fridge.
Do not the place the pork in the door. Every time the door is opened, the temperature will increase and cause the pork to spoil faster.
How Long Can You Freeze Pork
If the pork is 1-2 days past its sell-by date and is still raw, it’s best to freeze it. Pork should be stored in the freezer at 0°F. Pork will last in the freezer for 6 months.
Make sure you wrap the pork tightly before placing it in the freezer. You can also use a vacuum sealer for packaging the pork.
Don’t forget to label the pork with today’s date so you can keep track of how long it’s been in the freezer.
Thaw the pork in the refrigerator overnight and cook it within 2 days after it’s been completely defrosted.
If you thawed the pork in cold water or the microwave, you should cook it immediately after the meat is defrosted.
How To Tell if Pork Bad
Use the old smell test if you do not know whether your pork is still good. If the pork has a strong odor that causes you to revolt, the pork is spoiled.
Fresh pork has a slightly metallic or fresh lard smell. If it has a rotten-egg smell, sweet or sour smell through the pork in the trash because it pasts its prime.
Fresh pork should be moist and slight spring back when touched. But the pork should not be too moist or too dry. If the pork feels slimy, gummy, or sticky, toss it.
The color is also an indicator of freshness. Pork should be light-dark pink and have creamy white fat. If the pork takes on a dull gray or yellow color, it is rotten and should be discarded.
In addition to this, if there are furry green or white patches on the pork, it should be discarded immediately as it is infected with mold.
The sell-by date is not as accurate as most people think. Retailers and manufacturers devise product dates, and it is not federally mandated.
Therefore, it’s challenging to point out when the meat will start to spoil.
That’s why you should inspect the meat and not rely on product dates alone to determine if your pork is good.
You might also be interested in the following:
- How Long Is Beef Good for After Sell by Date
- How Long Is Ground Beef Good for After Sell by Date
- How Long Is Steak Good for After Its Sell-by Date
- How Long Is Chicken Good for After the Sell-by Date
- How Long Is Sausage Good for After Sell by Date
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.