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View Poll Results: Does opened lunchmeat stay good until the package date?
Yes 5 8.06%
No - I want it eaten with a few days 34 54.84%
I trust my nose 20 32.26%
old meat is always good until it turns green 3 4.84%
you forgot 0 0%
Voters: 62. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 07-11-2011, 12:04 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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Process Meats - Does the freshness date change after breaking the vacuum seal?

My coworkers and I have been arguing this back and forth for awhile.

Processed lunch meats have nearly unbelievable freshness dates on them. Ham, turkey, sliced chicken often have dates a month or more away. Microwave precooked bacon that I buy at Sams is dated 4 months away.

I've always felt that after the vacuum seal is broke the clock starts ticking before it can give you GI upsets or even a trip to the ER. For example, if I buy a package of ham today (July 11) it will be dated Aug something. Say, Aug 15. If I open that ham and make a sandwich today. I want to see it eaten up or thrown out within 4 to 6 days. No way in heck am I eating that ham 11 days from now.

People at work scoff and say it's good until the package date. Although realistically, a package of lunch meat gets eaten up within a few days because it's so small. Unless, you buy the economy size at Sams. Then what? Are you going to eat that ham 10 days from now?

Right now, I have a package of precooked, microwave bacon from Sams. We've been eating on it since mid May (two months). I swear it's starting to smell funky. The wife says no worries it's dated Sept. 4, 2011. I know it's precooked and full of preservatives. But, is it safe after being open 2 months?

What's your thoughts? Safe until the date or not? Does breaking the packaging escalate how quick it goes bad?
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  #2  
Old 07-11-2011, 12:12 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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I've seen packages that say to consume within a week after opening. That's my general rule +/- a day for smell testing.
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  #3  
Old 07-11-2011, 12:17 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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They do seem to deteriorate and get either dry and/or slimy after being opened for more than a few days. I would certainly eat it within a week, and if the portion were so big that I couldn't finish it in that time, I'd freeze a portion of it.

As for how safe the meats are to eat, I don't know exactly. I have a ham hanging in the basement that is like 8 months old now that I peck at from time to time. Properly preserved, meat can last a long, long time. But that's with raw meat (my ham is just cured, not cooked.) I believe cooked meat deteriorates much more quickly.
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  #4  
Old 07-11-2011, 12:20 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
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Yeah, one week is my rule-of-thumb, but cured meats will likely last a bit longer.
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  #5  
Old 07-11-2011, 12:57 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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The date is a "sell by" date for a sealed package, not an absolute guarantor of freshness. Most packaging I've seen specifically states that you should consume within a certain time after breaking the seal.

In other words, your coworkers are free to have my moldy bologna that is still within its due date.
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  #6  
Old 07-11-2011, 01:26 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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I guess I'm paranoid but I even hate having an unopened package of lunchmeat in the fridge for very long.

Buy it today. Open it two weeks from now. yeech! Yes, I know it can safely hang in the grocery store cooler for a month before selling. Somehow, when it's in my fridge it needs to be eaten quick.

I still have an old phobia from stories relatives told me about food poisoning before refrigeration was common at home. When in doubt, I throw it out.

Last edited by aceplace57; 07-11-2011 at 01:28 PM..
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  #7  
Old 07-11-2011, 01:34 PM
I_Know_Nothing I_Know_Nothing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
People at work scoff and say it's good until the package date. Although realistically, a package of lunch meat gets eaten up within a few days because it's so small. Unless, you buy the economy size at Sams. Then what? Are you going to eat that ham 10 days from now?
This would be easy to test. Buy a small package of Carl Budding type sandwich meat. Open it immediately. Save until expiration date on the package. Take it to work and dare one those people to eat it.

I can almost guarantee you they won't.
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  #8  
Old 07-11-2011, 01:37 PM
voltaire voltaire is offline
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From my experience bacon is sort of the exception to the rule. Probably because of the fat content, it seems to be able to last quite a bit longer than regular lunch meats, processed or otherwise.
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  #9  
Old 07-11-2011, 02:38 PM
RoeCocoa RoeCocoa is offline
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I come from a family that always had a few forensic experiments running in the back of the refrigerator; my mom considers it the height of decadence to dispose of month-old yellow turkey slices. She has a lot of digestive problems and I have an aversion to her home-made sandwiches, for some strange reason.

I often buy cold cuts in bulk, separate them into portions the size of 2-3 servings, and freeze them. This renders the Use By date more or less moot. I'll thaw the packages as needed within a few months of freezing them, and try to use the meat within a week of thawing. This isn't a hard and fast rule, though: if the meat seems "off" after only a couple of days, I'll toss it; if it still looks good and smells neutral on day 9, I'll use it.
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  #10  
Old 07-11-2011, 02:42 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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Hey, I was tricked! The thread title is "Process Meats - Does the freshness date change after breaking the vacuum seal?"

I assumed this was also the poll question, so clicked over and hit 'Yes'.

But the Poll question is actually the opposite. Don't want anyone thinking that I'm the type who eats fuzzy pickle loaf.
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  #11  
Old 07-11-2011, 07:43 PM
No umlaut for U No umlaut for U is offline
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3 days for uncured meats, 7 days after opening for cured meats. You might be able to push the envelope with summer sausage or salami.
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  #12  
Old 07-11-2011, 08:14 PM
Kolak of Twilo Kolak of Twilo is offline
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I clicked I trust my nose but I would change it to add and I trust my eyes too. Though I don't think of myself as a bachelor, being a single gay man nearing 50 who lives alone, I guess I pretty much fit the profile. The point being, I don't have to worry about poisoning anyone other than myself. I have a cast iron stomach so I don't worry too much about expiration dates on things AFTER I buy them. I always check what they are on items in the store, but once its in the fridge? Not so much.

I think a lot of it is proper storage, but if something has changed noticeably in smell or appearance it goes in the garbage bin. Nasty odors and stuff with furry things growing on them? Nope, gotta go.

Having said that I know I have cooked and eaten things past the "best if used by" date on numerous occasions. The first thing that comes to mind would be eggs. I can only imagine how many people here that will freak out about that.

Of course, while I might eat things that are less than fresh from time to time, I would never take that chance serving it to someone else.

Last edited by Kolak of Twilo; 07-11-2011 at 08:18 PM..
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  #13  
Old 07-11-2011, 08:32 PM
Grumman Grumman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltaire View Post
From my experience bacon is sort of the exception to the rule. Probably because of the fat content, it seems to be able to last quite a bit longer than regular lunch meats, processed or otherwise.
It's not the fat, it's the preparation process. IIRC, bacon is salted, dried and/or smoked, and this was originally done specifically to make it keep longer.
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  #14  
Old 07-11-2011, 09:08 PM
Implicit Implicit is offline
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Some hard salamis will last 3 weeks (pepperoni sticks for example), but sliced deli meats should be eaten within 5 days of opening the package. The freshness date is how long the meat will keep before the vacuum seal is broken, not how long the meat will last once you open the package. Regarding that pre-cooked bacon, I'd go with 3 weeks on that.

Last edited by Implicit; 07-11-2011 at 09:12 PM.. Reason: mmmmm bacon
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  #15  
Old 07-12-2011, 09:08 AM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
I clicked I trust my nose but I would change it to add and I trust my eyes too.
I voted "as long as it's not green", but that's basically my feeling too -- as long as it doesn't look or smell funny, I don't mind. But then again, I don't eat a lot of luncheon meat.
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  #16  
Old 07-12-2011, 09:36 PM
keturah keturah is offline
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Generally those packages are flushed with a gas before sealing them that ensures a controlled atomosphere for the food. The controlled atmosphere is what ensures the shelf life dated on the package as long as it is properly handled. Once the seal is broken all bets are off. The viability of the product then changes based on how you handle and store it.
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  #17  
Old 07-13-2011, 09:31 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
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Here's the obligatory Wiki link for modified atmosphere packaging.
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  #18  
Old 07-13-2011, 09:35 AM
Winston Smith Winston Smith is offline
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Pre-cooked bacon? For shame.
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  #19  
Old 07-13-2011, 10:02 AM
SanVito SanVito is online now
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Once that meat is exposed to the air, all betts are off and that use by date is no longer relevant (I checked with my partner the food retailer). The shelf life from opening is going to vary, but it's days not weeks, particularly as domestic fridges are not that cold.

But I would always trust my nose and not just chuck stuff away for the sake of it (as would she).
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  #20  
Old 07-13-2011, 10:48 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SanVito View Post
particularly as domestic fridges are not that cold.
Is there really a difference in temp between a commercial fridge and a domestic one? I mean, it's only a couple degrees and the fridge starts becoming a freezer. I thought the standard was 36-40F for fridges in general. Set too low, my fridge will actually start freezing food items.

Last edited by pulykamell; 07-13-2011 at 10:48 AM..
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  #21  
Old 07-13-2011, 11:22 AM
Fourtyfold Fourtyfold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Is there really a difference in temp between a commercial fridge and a domestic one?
No, although commercial freezers will usually be colder than domestic ones. (have to allow for heavier use of the freezer and still stay cold enough)

I was given the job once of loading a freezer trailer late one night, the damn thing was at -40.
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  #22  
Old 07-13-2011, 05:00 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Those aren't single-serve packages?
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