From farm to fork
Prior to the animal’s death, the environment had an impact on how long the meat would remain fresh. A stressed animal won’t taste as good as one that was kept calm, regardless of what it ate, how it lived, what breed it was, how old it was, or whether it was calm and content. You will receive flavorless, dark, tough, and short-lived beef. Blood sugars are converted to acid, which weakens and softens the muscle fibers to make the muscles more pliable.
Handling carcases plays a big part in maintaining freshness too.
In order to keep the surfaces as clean as possible, it is necessary to prevent contamination of the carcase during skinning.
Refrigerating a carcase too soon will have an adverse effect. Before beginning refrigeration, the internal muscle temperature must be allowed to gradually drop. If not, the meat will become tough through a process called “cold shortening.” Caracases should cool at 16 degrees C for 16 hours.
Temperature, humidity, and airflow in butcher refrigerators must be continuously monitored to prevent spoilage. We chill carcasses prior to cutting depending on the species and type of meat. Before processing, it’s critical that the carcass be in excellent condition and clean.
Typically, the carcase is vacuum sealed after being cut and boned. By removing the oxygen from the packaging, this increases the shelf life. (Microbes need oxygen to multiply).
There may occasionally be a smell when you open a vacuum-sealed package. A mild rotten egg is one way to describe it. This results from the vacuum packing process and typically disappears in less than an hour.
Therefore, the beef you purchase as steaks may have aged for up to 28 days by the time you purchase it.
For beef to tenderize and be at its best, the aging process needs to be carefully watched.
Tenderization takes place over the course of about 20 days as a result of the enzymes in the meat breaking down the fibers. Two days after the meat is killed, you could eat it, but it will be tough and flavorless.
There is also a process called Modified Atmosphere Packaging. (MAP) that slows microbial growth in the pack by substituting oxygen with a gas
primals, which are primal cuts of meat that have been deboned and then cut into steaks, ground beef, and roasts.
When the meat surfaces are exposed to air, discoloration occurs more quickly; see Ground Beef below.
Storage and handling after purchase
The meat was properly chilled after the animal was killed, and the butcher oversaw the entire process until it was ready for consumption. You cannot be careless with how you handle and store meat if you are a customer who will feed this to their family.
Carry a cooler bag when you shop for meat.
When you buy meat, put it in the fridge as soon as you can.
After buying ground beef, it should be eaten within 24 hours or frozen for later use.
“Use by” date, “Best before” and “Sell by” dates
Except for infant formula and baby foods, food dating is not prohibited by US federal law. Manufacturers can choose to use freshness dating and other terms, with the exception of dairy products and meat in some states.
The butcher uses a Sell-By date provided by the supplier.
Sell-by dates are on the packaging delivered to the store.
Best-Before dates indicate that the product should be consumed while it is still fresh.
A Use-By date means DO NOT consume after this date. Health authorities conduct rigorous tests to determine the Use-By date of food sold by butchers.
To prevent meat from going bad, the “cold chain” from slaughter to consumption must be maintained, and this chain includes the consumer. Keep in mind that a household refrigerator constantly opens and closes. It probably never gets warm enough in a typical home until the middle of the night.
Consider that when determining how long to store meat at home before using. You can either cook or freeze meat if you won’t be eating it for a few days. To ensure that you use frozen meat before it has been in the freezer for too long, always mark the packaging with the date of freezing.
Use strong wrapping to protect meat from freezer burn. Although freezer burn is not dangerous, it detracts from the flavor and appearance of meat.
Wrapping meat to store at home
Meat can be refrigerated in the packaging you purchased it in, as long as you follow the use-by date, of course. Since plastic is not always the best material to package fresh meat, I use greaseproof paper at home. By allowing the meat to breathe, a slimy film or stickiness is prevented on the meat. Always place fresh meat at the bottom of the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in greaseproof paper. This prevents drips onto foods that are ready to eat, such as cooked meats or vegetables that will be consumed raw.
After opening the package, if the meat has a slimy texture, there are potentially harmful bacteria present. Slimy is not the same as natural moisture. Natural moisture on meat feels wet. Slimy meat feels sticky.
Meat that smells chemically should be returned to the store where you bought it for a replacement.
A chemical scent indicates that something has been spilled on the product because we don’t use chemicals to prepare fresh meat.
Be aware of cleaning chemicals, bleaches, shampoos, etc. nearby, when purchasing and storing meat.
Meat’s color is not always an indication of how fresh it is. Meat is bright red when cut, but that color dries up when it is exposed to oxygen. MAP is used to maintain the bright color of the meat because consumers associate it with freshness. Sometimes the loosely wrapped meat you purchase from a butcher will be a darker color than the plastic-wrapped steak. Steaks that are stacked on top of one another will have tainted surfaces.
Consumers use color to assess whether meat is fresh and suitable for consumption. Consumers rely heavily on it to make their purchasing decision. Myoglobin contains the protein that gives meat its color. Oxygen, or lack of it, influences meat color. All the oxygen has been removed from the meat sold in “skin packs,” which is why it is a brown to purple color. Compared to meat that is loosely wrapped, it is perfectly edible and will last longer.
What to look for
The meat in the image above has been held at a temperature that is too high. The meat is off-color and has become sticky.
Refrigerate meat between 0 and 4 C (34 to 42F). The smell will be quite strong and offensive.
This is what freshly cut meat looks like
The color of vacuum-packed meat is a deeper shade of red. This is perfectly acceptable.
The color of beef can be altered by factors such as temperature, light, microbial growth, and oxygen exposure. Because it contains oxymyoglobin, a pigment created when a protein called myoglobin reacts with oxygen, fresh ground beef will be red.
The interior of raw ground meat may be brownish or grey when you bring it home and open the package because it hasn’t had a chance to breathe.
This doesn’t mean it has gone bad.
Because it has been finely chopped, ground beef will change color quickly, especially if it is lean and packed tightly.
It is safe to eat as long as there is no overpowering sour smell. But eat within a day, or freeze it. Do not keep ground beef in the freezer for more than four months.
Avoid using any ground beef that resembles the below image at all costs.
The process of maturing beef differently when done in a drying chamber than when done normally
To enhance flavor, premium cuts are kept for at least twice as long as usual.
Tenderization tails off at about 20 days.
Then dry aging intensifies the flavor through moisture evaporation.
Beef that has been dry aged has a distinct odor and flavor.
Although it is sometimes compared to blue cheese, not everyone enjoys it because they believe it to be meat that has gone bad.
Due to the losses from evaporation and trimming, properly dry aged steak is like fine wine with its own bouquet and commands a premium price.
What should it look like?
Beef can be aged for up to 50 days when it is dry-aged. When cut, it will turn red inside but turn black on the outside. The temperature, airflow and humidity must be constantly monitored.
When they go bad, beef, lamb, pork, and poultry all have distinct odors. But as I mentioned earlier, be cautious if it smells sour. Throw it away if it smells bad because it probably does. If in doubt, throw it out. Find a reputable butcher you can trust and who you can speak with to get the best quality meat. Inform them you want to buy real meat and will follow their recommendations. When they learn what you like, you will receive some great advice and discounts.
- Buy meat from somewhere you trust. Cheap is not always good value.
- If you purchase meat that has already been packaged, make sure the packaging is intact and the use-by date hasn’t passed.
- Keep meat away from strong-smelling products while shopping and storing.
- Get to know who you buy from. A good butcher likes to keep his customers healthy.
- Keep the cold chain. Refrigerate meat as quickly as possible after purchase.
- When removing meat from its packaging at home, handle it carefully and always wash your hands and utensils right away.
- Don’t wash meat before cooking. Cooking will kill any bacteria on the meat surface.
Storage times for different species from slaughter to consumption.
Beef: Up to 28 days
Lamb: Up to 10 days
Pork: Up to 7 days
Chicken: Up to 6 days
How can I tell if my meat’s gone bad?
Is it OK if beef smells a little?
Use the smell test to determine whether the ground beef is raw or cooked. Fresh ground beef barely has a smell, but rancid meat smells tangy and putrid. Once it goes bad, it’s no longer safe to eat.
How can you tell if beef is spoiled?
Bad meat will have a sour aroma that is reminiscent of spoiled milk. Additionally, it will change from being red to a dark brown shade. It’s better to throw away any meat in your refrigerator that has an odd smell or color than to take a chance.
What does bad beef smell and look like?
Fresh ground beef ought to have a light iron aroma that is neutral-smelling. If it has been in the package for a while and is getting close to its expiration date, it will start to emit a faint odor. However, if the odor is overpowering enough to make you wrinkle your nose, it’s time to throw it away.