Use by/Freeze by – This type of dating system is clearest for the consumer.If it is a fresh product, it needs to be consumed on or before the use by date on the package or frozen if additional storage time is desired.Frozen storage times for meat can vary from one to 12 months depending on the species (chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef) from a quality aspect.
Packaged on – This type of date is often used on fresh meat but also leaves the most room for confusion or error on behalf of the consumer.
Most fresh meat can be stored at refrigerated temperatures for up to three days after packaging in typical meat tray overwrap style or butcher paper wrap packaging.
Longer storage time of up to seven days from retail purchase can be used if the product is vacuum packaged with a good seal and the air is removed from the package.
It can be really confusing to look at an indicator date on a package and see a variety of different terms.
If there is a misunderstanding of what the date means, the safety of the food product and those consuming it could be compromised.
Michigan State University Extension recommends keeping your refrigerator at the proper temperature, less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is important that continuous refrigerated or frozen storage be used with meat products that are not shelf stable.
Sell by – This creates an easy date for the retailer to know when the product has to be removed from their shelf and disposed of instead of being sold.
In general, consumers have one to three days to use that meat product if it is fresh before there would be concern from a safety standpoint.