(When) Can I eat these?
May 8, 2019 1:40 PM   Subscribe

I've been looking at refrigerated prepared food lately, and some of the "use or freeze by" dates are a lot further out than I expected. These are either cooked meat (like turkey breasts) or entrees that contain cooked meat.

They're in vacuum bags, and I've read that that limits decomposition and bacteria, but if that's all that makes them safe to keep so long, it seems like the packages should say something about using the contents within a few days after opening the bags. Which they don't.

So can I really keep these refrigerated up to the package date, after opening the package? Or should I eat or freeze them right away after opening?
posted by still_wears_a_hat to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Best answer: Most of the packages of meat like that I've seen has a note somewhere saying to eat within X days of opening, where X is usually 7. While sealed, you should be fine up to the date printed, but I wouldn't recommend going by it once opened.
posted by Aleyn at 2:07 PM on May 8, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I think you have to treat it like any other cooked meat/mixed dish once opened. Which is three days for me, because even if you can eat it after that, it's definitely not worth it given the degradation in flavour.
posted by howfar at 2:56 PM on May 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I remember reading a fascinating article about this in the New Yorker a few years ago (sorry no link), but I think the upshot was that there is some specific gas inside the unopened package that's contributing to keeping the food in a fresh state, and when it's opened then you have to contend with the regular rate of decomposition/spoilage.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:12 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, they are good until then, it's okay. However, I've purchased basil at the store, and as soon as I open the package, it turns brown the next day. That's basically what would happen with your ground turkey, etc. They pump something into the package to keep it fresh longer, and it's not bad, just use it right away when you finally open it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some of the packaged meats are irradiated, so they are good until you open the package and longer after you do, because they have been sterilized by radiation, so growth is slow to start. I worked at a place where we used Watson's whole roasted turkey breasts and the owner described the process. Some vegetables are irradiated too, like whole 4-5 pound boxes of sealed tomatoes.
posted by Oyéah at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They're only safe that long unopened, you can't just chow down on some turkey for five months or whatever. But the preservation both physical and chemical is legit. I bet they're reeeeaally salty.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:30 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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