Chicken of mysterious provenance
August 14, 2016 7:42 PM   Subscribe

I have apparently inherited a frozen 2lb block of shredded, cooked chicken, from 2014, that belonged to a previous occupant of my apartment. It is currently thawing in my fridge: what next?

Specifics:
  • The package has a sell-by date in May 2014. No idea when it was purchased, or put in the freezer.
  • The package is one solid block that has been sitting in my freezer door since I moved in.
  • The chicken is fully cooked, shredded, meat-only (no bones or skin).
  • The package says "KEEP REFRIGERATED" on it so I assume it was sold fresh/refrigerated, not frozen.
  • The package appears to be sealed, heavy plastic, possibly vacuum-packed.
Brainstorming the potentially bad things that could have happened to the chicken, so far I have:
  • Previous occupant waited a long time before freezing; chicken was already bad when it got to the freezer
  • A power outage in the past 2 years might have temporarily defrosted the chicken
  • ???
Like I said above the fold, the whole package is currently sitting on a plate in my fridge, defrosting. What should I be expecting to come out: gross mush-that-was-formerly-chicken? Chicken that's perfectly fine? Chicken that looks perfectly fine, but might kill me? Something in between?

Bonus: if the chicken does turn out to be fine, what can I do with it, as a single person who can't possibly eat it all in time? Can I portion it out and re-freeze it as is? Or would it be better to make a big batch of something, and freeze that? Normally I tend to err on the side of caution for these kinds of things, but this could potentially feed me for, like, the next 2 weeks, so I'd like to get AskMe's expert Can I Eat This opinion. Thanks!
posted by btfreek to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I get that this could feed you for the next two weeks, but it could also (and more likely, since you literally have no information about how it was treated and stored in the PAST TWO YEARS) make you really, really miserably sick (like KILL ME NOW sick) for the next several days.

Please do not eat this.

(Credentials: former chef who still holds a food safety certificate and who generally of the Eat It camp.)
posted by cooker girl at 7:45 PM on August 14, 2016 [73 favorites]


Do no eat it. It's not worth 2 week's worth of food!

Foodsafety.gov and StillTasty both say a year in the freezer is the longest it should go in for.
posted by astapasta24 at 7:46 PM on August 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Now what you do is throw it in the trash
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:46 PM on August 14, 2016 [36 favorites]


if the chicken does turn out to be fine, what can I do with it

Toss it, because you have no way of knowing if it's fine or if it has odorless, tasteless, and colorless, but extremely unpleasant, cooties swarming all over it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:52 PM on August 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


No no no no no no no no no!!!!
posted by a strong female character at 7:52 PM on August 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


..oh. Okay :( Into the trash it goes.

(re: feeding me for two weeks, I generally subscribe to the "meat as garnish, not as the main event" school of cooking)
posted by btfreek at 7:53 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Why not give it to a dog? You could cook it and be doggoe's best bud.
posted by taff at 8:09 PM on August 14, 2016


I wouldn't feed it to my dog, even

Chicken is a few bucks a pound, there is no reason to let anything eat 2 year old meat
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:12 PM on August 14, 2016 [34 favorites]


You should leave it in the freezer until trash day, then throw it in the trash still frozen. Not even rats and raccoons deserve 2-year-old chicken.
posted by No-sword at 8:17 PM on August 14, 2016 [27 favorites]


Nope nope nope nope nope nope. Nooooooooooooooope.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:22 PM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Make sure you thoroughly disinfect any plates or counters or shelves it was sitting on while thawing.
posted by lazuli at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


For all you know this chicken sat at 80 degrees on a pile of actual literal trash garbage for seventy days before it got frozen in that freezer. I'm not saying it WAS. But it COULD HAVE BEEN. And you have NO IDEA whether it was.

I usually err on the side of "just eat it you fuckin wimp" and oh my good god would I NOT eat that
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 PM on August 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I'm usually firmly in the "go ahead and eat that!" camp and I would not touch two year old chicken with a ten foot pole.
posted by MsMolly at 8:59 PM on August 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


Please do not feed it to your dog.

Dogs' digestive systems are not as delicate as humans, obvs, but they're not made of cast iron.
posted by Salamander at 9:12 PM on August 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


I am very sympathetic to the frugality appeal of this. I am also a pragmatic germaphobe with a horror for gastrointestinal misery. I say: don't feed it to yourself nor to any animal you care about. HOWEVER. If you properly sterilize all transport vessels, it might be a good addition to a compost pile. Just be thoughtful about it.
posted by witchen at 9:48 PM on August 14, 2016


I am of the eat it camp most of the time too. I would not eat this, but not because it is 2 year old chicken. I would not eat it because you have no idea what its provenance is. If you knew it was handled properly and has been frozen solid for 2 years, I would at least try it, but not this package.

Why did the old tenant leave it behind and why did the landlord not clear it out when they cleaned the apartment between tenants?
posted by AugustWest at 9:53 PM on August 14, 2016


I reread my question and I think my wording was a little vague/misleading -- I've been here (cohabiting with this block of chicken) for a little over a year, living with a roommate who just moved out. The chicken has been here since I got here, and I assumed that it belonged to my roommate. Checking the dates over I now think that it belonged to the other roommate (ie the person I replaced). Since the place has been continuously occupied I assume there was no landlord inspection/cleanout (2 weeks after my roommate moved out, I'm still cleaning up after them ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Anyway, I've stuck the chicken back in the freezer and will toss it along with the trash next garbage day. It was still all sealed up and not even appreciably thawed at that point (2lbs of chicken is a lot of thermal mass, apparently). Thanks for your concern, everyone.
posted by btfreek at 10:08 PM on August 14, 2016


jesus god do not ever, ever feed "idk if this is 2 year old meat is grotesquely tainted or not but lol who cares right" food to a pet dog or cat or a stray dog or cat. what a horrifying suggestion.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:32 PM on August 14, 2016 [19 favorites]


Just to clarify, I did say to cook it. I'd totally have given it to my dogs. I know the (unrefrigerated) rotting bones they used to dig out of the garden and garbage bins given half a chance. We always found our dogs and stray dogs (overseas) don't eat rotten food. Food that's not ideal for health but tastes good ie chocolate, yes. But food that's rotten to the point of illness, my dogs simply wouldn't touch.
posted by taff at 11:54 PM on August 14, 2016


Perhaps the chicken was meant to be thrown out two years ago but someone put it in the freezer waiting for garbage day...
Oh god.
posted by Thella at 11:55 PM on August 14, 2016 [18 favorites]


Even if the chicken was in pristine condition when it went in the freezer, two years of being frozen will have rendered it inedible. Sadly, freezing doesn't preserve foods forever.
posted by mymbleth at 12:00 AM on August 15, 2016


Yeah, for the record, dogs can and do get very sick and even die from salmonella and E. coli. And please don't ever rely on a dog knowing what's good for them to prevent them from getting sick, if this were true about half of the office calls at the vet clinic I manage would up and disappear. We see several pets PER DAY that are sick from ingesting something they shouldn't have (AKA "dietary indiscretion").

And yeah, throw this chicken TF out! Nothing is going to be edible after being frozen for this long, and you have no idea how it was stored before it was frozen.
posted by biscotti at 3:23 AM on August 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


My rule for being thrifty re food is: is it cheap enough to justify the money I will be spending on an ER visit? I understand the impulse to not waste food but food poisoning is the absolute worst.
posted by emjaybee at 5:31 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


For all you know this chicken sat at 80 degrees on a pile of actual literal trash garbage for seventy days before it got frozen in that freezer.

For all you know, it isn't chicken.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:36 AM on August 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dude...

No.

Do not eat!

Frozen food is safe when frozen for long periods of time, true, BUT the cardinal rule of food storage is that you have to know how it's been stored for its whole history. Gaps in the storage history mean game over. If you can't be 100% sure that it was kept at proper temperature (in this case, frozen) for the entire time -- and I mean the *entire* time, then you are literally gambling with your health. (This is why people date packages with purchase date, when something was frozen/thawed, etc. Food-borne illness means guessing games are bad news.)

Chicken is cheap. Go buy some more.
posted by -1 at 8:01 AM on August 15, 2016


Normally I tend to err on the side of caution for these kinds of things, but this could potentially feed me for, like, the next 2 weeks

Because you don't know what happened in the time before the chicken came into your possession, there is a giant flashing question mark on this chicken, same as would be found over any chicken you stumble across in a dumpster.

I am almost ALWAYS on the side of "go ahead and eat it!" I eat stuff off the ground, stuff that has been left out for days, whatever. Nearly one hundred percent of the time, I say "Go on! What's the worst that could happen! Go for it!"

I would like to congratulate you for posting the one AskMe of 2016 that has resulted in me saying "no no no no no don't eat it no no no"
posted by Greg Nog at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Even if the chicken was in pristine condition when it went in the freezer, two years of being frozen will have rendered it inedible. Sadly, freezing doesn't preserve foods forever.
Well... if frozen at a cold enough temp it will technically always be safe, it just might lose anything resembling an edible flavor/texture. (IIRC ≤ 0F is where it reaches the "safe indefinitely" point.)

Freeze something cold enough and you absolutely can eat it after many, many years. You just probably wouldn't want to.
posted by -1 at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2016


I have totally eaten meat that was frozen for 2+ years. However:
a) I knew everything about its provenance, had put it in my freezer myself, and knew that it had never been un-frozen.
b) It was a solid, thick cut of uncooked beef that had been well-wrapped, and I STILL had to trim off an outer layer that had gotten freezer-burned.

Even if food safety were not an issue (and it is in this case), that shredded, cooked chicken is dehydrated, freezer-burned, vaguely chicken-y sawdust by now.
posted by desuetude at 8:30 AM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just to add: even if you purchased this, handled it properly, put it in the freezer two months ago, and thawed it safely, IT COULD NOT FEED YOU FOR 2 WEEKS OMG WTF. You can't leave thawed chicken in the fridge and eat it for 14 days.
posted by peep at 9:31 AM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


You also have to option of just leaving it in the freezer as a heat sink.

If your freezer is normally "not stuffed," having that big block of frozen meat in there will save you a a few cents on every electricity bill.
posted by porpoise at 9:43 AM on August 15, 2016


OK I will preface this by saying I have heard all of you and will absolutely, 100% toss this (and not give it to any animals, gah) but I have to admit I am totally fascinated by the difference in severity of reaction between me and literally everyone in this thread. Is it because I've been looking at it for the past year so that it's become a totally benign presence in my life? To reiterate, this was a commercially prepared (I looked at it again; it's from Costco), vacuum sealed, pack of fully cooked meat. If I had been the one to stuff it in the freezer and pull it out 2 years later, would your response be any different? (Once again: this is 100% hypothetical and mostly just me curious about long-term freezing, I will be tossing the chicken, etc etc)
posted by btfreek at 11:12 AM on August 15, 2016


If you bought and froze it, the cooked chicken could be eaten after 2 years with no fear for safety.

But the quality would probably suck at that point. If you had it at -10°F or -20°F, the quality would not suffer as much. Typical freezer-with-refrigerators are usually only 0°F. Auto defrosting also can cause long-term quality to suffer. It would also be much better for it to be raw, pre-frozen chicken.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:03 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't eat it because it would not taste very good, and fresh chicken is the cheapest meat available, but I don't think it's a food safety issue.

I don't concur with the extreme reactions here. I've had two year old meat from the freezer. It was not enjoyable. But I wasn't risking my health.
posted by danny the boy at 12:23 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]




I'm a former cook, and I wouldn't eat this mostly because it would just be freezer burned and crappy.

If you had a power outage or something you might crap your pants, but more than likely it would just be gross. Stuff like that just doesn't keep well even if it's been frozen the entire time. Restaurants trash frozen stuff like this constantly unless they're huge cheapasses.
posted by emptythought at 12:48 PM on August 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


If I had been the one to stuff it in the freezer and pull it out 2 years later, would your response be any different?

If you had also been the one to buy it, bring it home, package it, and freeze it, and you did all those things within FDA-approved guidelines for food safety, quite possibly yes. With this particular chicken, you have absolutely no idea if it was bad or improperly handled before it was frozen.
posted by lazuli at 1:20 PM on August 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I had been the one to stuff it in the freezer and pull it out 2 years later, would your response be any different?

Hell yeah, then I'd be like "chow the fuck down"
posted by Greg Nog at 2:18 PM on August 15, 2016


If I had been the one to stuff it in the freezer and pull it out 2 years later, would your response be any different?

Yes. I would say as long as it was appropriately handled before freezing, and was frozen within an appropriate time frame after purchase, and remained frozen for the whole time, go ahead and cook it and eat it and just be prepared for it to taste crappy (rather than being prepared to go to urgent care or the ER). Although I would still say it wouldn't feed you for two weeks, because dude....no.
posted by biscotti at 3:32 PM on August 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah the problem here isn't that the chicken is automatically bad because it's old - the problem is you don't even know where it came from, much less whether it's been thawed and refrozen. It's Schrodinger's Chicken.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:58 AM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't eat it because it would not taste very good, and fresh chicken is the cheapest meat available, but I don't think it's a food safety issue.

But, as others have pointed out, the asker has no idea whether it was safe when it went into the freezer in the first place. I recently threw out a package of vacuum-sealed, perfectly fine-looking frozen chicken. The reason I stuck it in the freezer in the first place was in order to keep it from rotting until I had a full bag of garbage to take out. I needed to throw it out because the night after I bought it, there was a power outage and my fridge got to be well over the safe holding temperature for chicken.

This is food from two roommates ago, so there's no way of knowing why it was in the freezer, and it's doubtful that they would remember even if the asker wanted to track them down to ask. There's just no basis to assume it must have been handled safely all that time. It's probably not super likely that something like that happened to it, but it's definitely possible.
posted by mister pointy at 2:15 PM on August 21, 2016


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