With 5 euros or less, you can get a kilogram of ground meat, which is quick and easy to prepare. Sometimes a packet of 400 grams ground meat can last for 10 meals, which may already have passed the date stated on its package. So you would wonder, should I use it or should I throw it away?
Well, like dairy products, the date stated on the package very often is the ‘sell-by’ date. If the package of ground meat is opened and the balance is transferred into a tightly-closed container and refrigerated at all times, then it can still remain safe to use for 1 to 3 days after the sell-by date. It is similar in the case of unopened ground meat.
The shelf life of ground meat can be further extended if it is frozen. Theoretically, foods that are freshly frozen can last indefinitely. This is because water that’s present in the ground meat is not available for microbial use, therefore the microbes hardly grow in it to cause spoilage to the food. However, the freezing time plays an important role in determining the actual shelf life. Unopened ground meat will generally stay good for a few months in the freezer when the package is overwrapped with a plastic wrap and then stored in the freezer before reaching the sell-by date. Alternatively, you can cook the ground meat and then store it in the freezer, which could also last for a month.
A general rule of thumb is that ground meat can still be used for a few days after the sell-by date if it is properly stored. But you should discard any ground meat with a sour smell, slimy texture or off-color (example as seen in the image below).