Like my post about how long is Spam good for opened and refrigerated, I came across another very specific food situation that I needed the internet’s help with.
I recently bought some raw chicken from Trader Joe’s before leaving for a week’s vacation.
When I got home and was looking to cook something for dinner, I saw that the pack of unopened chicken was still in the refrigerator. With fear of salmonella and illness, I looked for an indication of whether the chicken was still good to cook and eat, I saw that the chicken had a sell-by-date of October 3rd — that was four days ago (It’s October 7), but what did that mean?
I knew that “Sell By” doesn’t mean I needed to throw it out immediately, but was the chicken still safe to eat four days after that date?
Sell by Date vs. Expiration Date
The sell-by-date is different than the expiration date. The sell-by-date is an reminder to the grocer/retailer to take it off the shelves, but that doesn’t mean the chicken is expired or bad, it just means it’s not as fresh anymore.
Most stores take extra precautions when it comes to food. Considering a $3.42 pack of Perdue chicken could ultimately cost not only the seller, but the producer, hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits if something happen.
So they’re better safe than sorry. Much like when a doctor will tell you your recovery time is three weeks, it’s probably more like two — just so you’re not pushing it too early and to cover their backsides from a potential lawsuit.
I see the ‘Sell By Date’ as a indicator of the Chicken’s quality based on time.
How long is chicken good for after sell by date?
SOOOOOO… with all that information in hand, how long is chicken good for after sell by date? How long is the chicken safe?
Officially, the FDA conservatively says that fresh poultry (Chicken or turkey) when refrigerated is good for 1 or 2 days after the sell by date. Nine months when frozen. That said, their table also states:
These short but safe time limits will help keep refrigerated food 40° F (4° C) from spoiling or becoming dangerous.
Most sites repeat the FDA’s guidelines that refrigerated chicken is good for 2-3 days after the sell-by date, but many food sites and forums call out that the sell-by date is a strong suggestion and take matters in their experienced hands: Check out what they have to say on chowhound, Still Tasty, Spoonful, eHow, Global Post, Yahoo Answers,
The bottom line from all the online research? A good rule of thumb is to always smell and touch the chicken, whether it’s one day past its sell-date, one week past, or more, if the chicken at all smells “off” or is slimy then don’t risk it. Throw it out.
If you’re within a reasonable timerange and you’ve stored your chicken in the refrigerator properly and your comfortable with cooking chicken properly, you should be fine.