Suspiciously distant use-by date?
June 2, 2018 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Can refrigerated ground beef really be good for multiple weeks?

I have refrigerated ground beef that I bought around two and a half weeks ago, in a tightly sealed pack (I think vacuum sealed?) that is marked as use by June 4. How is this possible? I don’t eat meat very much, but I remember ground beef as being something you had to use or freeze within 2-3 days when my mom would buy it growing up. Has ground beef technology really advanced so much?

I just cooked with it and I didn’t notice any bad smell, except for some paper towels in the bag where juice had spilled that maybe smelled bad? But the actual meat no. However, I eat meat very rarely so all meat smells slightly gross to me, which makes it hard to say. Plus, my paranoia clouds the picture.

I feel a little ridiculous asking if it’s ok to eat something WITHIN the sell-by date, but I was going to puree some and feed it to my baby so I want to be super-sure. This is the actual product.

Also, I’m just curious if this is a normal thing or not. Are most people buying meat that lasts for weeks?
posted by sometamegazelle to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That doesn’t seem too weird to me for the vacuum packed aspect but if I had opened it and used half I would have used the second half within 2 days of opening
posted by raccoon409 at 2:11 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's the vacuum sealing that does it, when kept below 40 degrees - it creates a low-oxidation environment so decomposition and bacterial growth are limited in that way along with by cold preservation. It doesn't last forever (I have lost one of these at the back of the fridge for a while) but it does give it a long cold shelf life.

Even the air-packed kind of meat (plastic container covered with taut sealed plastic) is often packed in gases that slow this growth as well (MAP - Modified Atmosphere Packaging), and it is possible the meat you got was additionally processed in a similar atmosphere so that what little air might remain inside the package is similarly inert.

Agreed, once the package is breached and oxygen gets in, you only have a couple days to finish it.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:26 PM on June 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: So says (at this page about vacuum packed meat) "When meat is vacuum packaged at the process facility, 6-8 weeks of shelf life is common. Ask your butcher for a whole primal, which has not been re-packaged to get the best shelf life". So it seems like the shelf life you're seeing is not impossible if the source was dealing directly with an abattoir.
posted by howfar at 2:31 PM on June 2, 2018

Does it seem weird how long sausage in a 1lb tube lasts (Jimmy Dean, Bob Evans, etc.)? This is similar.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:37 PM on June 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's possible that it was gamma irradiated [J Food Prot. 1998]. I'm unaware that this is done in practice in ground beef (it's done for some fruits in some jurisdictions, and dried flower Cannabis for the consumer market is (unfortunately) typically treated.

The nonirradiated control samples for both batches of ground beef spoiled within 7 days. Microbial counts in ground beef patties stored at -18 degrees C did not change over the 42-day period. Shelf life of ground beef patties stored at 4 degrees C may be extended with gamma radiation, especially at 5.0 and 7.0 kGy.
posted by porpoise at 6:11 PM on June 2, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. We ate it and are of course fine. I was having trouble since google mostly just said “within two days.” Or else there was like professional-level meat processing info, which was too much for me to take in.

And I actually didn’t know that sausage also comes in sealed tubes that last forever.. that freaks me out too!
posted by sometamegazelle at 3:09 PM on June 3, 2018

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