How Long Can Ground Beef Stay in the Fridge?

how long can ground beef stay in the fridge?

The versatility of ground beef is widely known. From mouthwatering grass-fed beef sliders to savory meatballs, or a warm bowl of hearty chili, its possibilities are endless.

However, responsible home chefs value the safety and freshness of ground beef just as much as the premium source of the meat, which raises two important questions:

  • How long can raw ground beef stay in the fridge?
  • How long can cooked ground beef stay in the fridge?

In this blog post, you’ll get clarity on the recommended storage time for both raw and cooked ground beef, learn how to identify signs of spoilage, and proper handling techniques to keep everyone sitting at your table safe and well satisfied.

How long is raw ground beef good for in the fridge?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, raw ground beef can be stored for one to two days in the fridge.

*Important* Please keep in mind that the effectiveness of these general guidelines can vary based on the meat's freshness at the time of purchase and the temperature of your refrigerator.

Why meat freshness influences how long you can keep raw ground beef in the fridge

When meat is freshly processed and handled properly, it has a longer shelf life. This is the prime reason why the Grass Roots quality control protocol includes flash freezing cuts immediately after harvesting.

Flash freezing is the process of rapidly freezing meat at extremely low temperatures, which:

  • locks in the meat’s quality and flavor
  • retains potent nutrients
  • preserves the meat's texture and taste while inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

Flash-frozen ground beef from a regenerative agriculture producer gives you the benefits of extended storage times, reduced food waste, and the highest level of quality, nutrients and freshness when preparing your favorite dishes.

Explore our bestselling flash-frozen regeneratively-farmed cuts.

How long is cooked ground beef good in the fridge?

Cooked ground beef can usually be stored in the fridge for roughly three to four days.

Once cooked, let the beef cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container or wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap. Label the container with the date to keep track of its freshness.

If you’re not able to eat it within the recommended three to four days, freeze the ground beef. Cooked ground beef can be safely frozen for two to three months, which helps maintain its quality and extends its shelf life.

How to tell if ground beef is bad

To determine if your raw ground beef has gone bad, be on the lookout for these three things:

1. Color: Fresh ground beef typically has a bright red color. If you notice a brown or grayish hue, that likely indicates spoilage.

2. Smell: Trust your nose. Fresh ground beef has a mild, meaty odor. Even if it’s before the sell by date, if there’s an intense or sour smell, the meat probably needs to be tossed.

3. Texture: Quality ground beef has a relatively firm texture. If you notice a slimy texture, stickiness, or the meat is excessively soft to the touch, it’s not safe to eat. Throw it out.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and dispose of any meat that raises concerns.

The importance of properly storing ground beef

How you store raw ground beef directly affects its freshness and the degree to which you are at risk of bacterial growth and spoilage. Properly storing ground beef allows you to:

Maintain freshness

By storing it at the recommended temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below, you slow down bacterial growth, and preserve its freshness, flavor, texture, and nutritional value.

Prevent foodborne illnesses

Proper storage practices help prevent the growth of E. coli and Salmonella.

Minimize cross-contamination

Ground meats like ground beef should be stored separately from other food items, including cooked meats, to reduce the chance of spreading harmful bacteria.

Side effects of eating bad ground beef

Consuming spoiled meat can have severe consequences, including food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses.

These illnesses can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and in the worst cases, dehydration and organ damage. It's crucial to be vigilant about the freshness of ground beef and discard any meat (whether raw or cooked) that shows any signs of spoilage.

Tips for safely handling and storing ground beef

To maximize the freshness and safety of raw ground beef before you cook it, here are some practical tips for handling and storage:

  • Set your refrigerator temperature at or below 40°F (4°C) to slow down bacterial growth. Keeping ground beef in a colder environment extends its shelf life.
  • Remove the beef from its original packaging and transfer it to an airtight container or sealed plastic bag to prevent air exposure, which can lead to freezer burn or spoilage. Consider dividing larger portions into smaller packages for convenient use.
  • Keep raw ground beef separate from other foods. Store it on the bottom shelf in a leak-proof container to prevent any potential contamination. Consider using color-coded storage containers or labels to distinguish raw meat from other foods.
Pastured-raised Cattle

7 reasons why grass-fed and grass-finished ground beef is the gold standard

Before your ground beef arrives on a shelf in your fridge, you have to decide where to source that meat from.

Here’s why the quality of the meal you’ll serve your family is exponentially higher when you select grass-fed, grass-finished, and regeneratively-farmed beef:

1. Higher nutrient content. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef tends to have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial fatty acids like omega-3.

2. Lower fat content. Leaner by nature, grass-fed and grass-finished beef has a lower overall fat content when compared to beef from cattle raised on feedlots.

3. Improved Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef generally has a more favorable balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids.

4. Enhanced flavor. Most people comment that grass-fed and grass-finished beef has a richer and more distinctive flavor.

5. No antibiotics or added hormones. Cattle raised on a grass-only diet often comes from animals that have not been given antibiotics or hormones.

6. Environmental sustainability. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef often comes from farms that practice more eco-friendly regenerative agriculture methods.

7. Supports local and small-scale farmers. Choosing grass-fed and grass-finished beef often supports local, independent farmers who prioritize sustainable and ethical farming practices. Learn more about our co-op of small farms.

Grass Roots Farmers Co-Op is committed to raising cattle with transparent standards like:

  • 100% born, raised, and harvested in the USA
  • Live outdoors with free access to non-GMO pasture
  • Never fed grain or grain by-products
  • Never treated with antibiotics or synthetic hormones
  • Regenerative agriculture techniques that remedy soil and waterway degradation, support flora and fauna diversity, and help to sequester carbon.

Explore our helpful Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished Beef Guide to learn more.


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