How Can You Know If Pork Has Gone Bad?

image001Pork and white meat in general are felt to be healthy alternatives to eating red meat and have additional health benefits. Proper storage and cooking are essential to prevent the harmful effects from eating undercooked or spoiled pork. Anyone eating pork must know how to determine whether the meat has gone bad or not and how to ensure proper cooking. Always cook fresh pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and remember to store it properly.

How to Tell If Pork Has Gone Bad

Bacteria from spoiled or undercooked pork can cause symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and cramping. These food poisoning symptoms may take 1-3 days to develop and several more days to resolve. Therefore, follow the steps below to make sure the pork is fine to eat.

1. Smell the Meat

Smell the meat is one of the best ways to identify spoiled meat. Bacteria cause chemical and structural changes in food when attacking it. This results in a change in smell and color. Fresh good quality pork should have little or no odor. Ammonia or sulfur smell is a common odor when food is contaminated with bacteria. Pork in the vacuum package sometimes has an odor that should disappear after rinsing the pork in cold water.

2. Check the Color

Pork should have a pink or white color when fresh; any other color suggests the meat is spoiled. Green, brown or greyish coloration is a sure sign not to buy or use the pork. Yeast and bacteria can cause this appearance as well as freezer burn, mold and protein breakdown. Very fresh meat usually has a reddish color. Prolonged freezer storage may cause the color fade or darken, but it is still generally safe to eat. Trim off the freezer burned parts for a better tasting cut of meat. Any fat should be white, never gray or yellow. The best course of action is not to eat meat when in doubt about its freshness or safety.

3. Feel the Meat

Fresh meat should always feel firm. A general rule of thumb is that fresh meat should have the consistency of the pad of your hand. Make sure the meat appears moist as well. Hard, dry or sticky meat is a sure sign of spoilage. Don't be afraid to squeeze or press on the meat in the butcher or grocery case to ensure you are getting a quality cut of pork.

How to Prevent Pork from Going Bad

1. Use Your Gut

If your “gut” or instinct is telling you something about the cut of pork does not look right, don’t buy it. Evolution has conditioned us to innately known when something does not look, feel or smell right. Unfortunately some unscrupulous stores re-date or re-mark meat to make it seem fresher that it really is. Nature won’t lie and use the strategies above to help pick the best cut of pork.

2. Check the Package Date Before Buying

Always inspect the package for dates. Be sure to cook or freeze the pork by its "use-by" date. Alternatively, if a "sell-by" date is listed, be sure to cook or freeze within 3 days of this date. Do not buy pork or any meat after these dates have passed, unless it has been properly frozen before either date is reached.

3. Keep the Shelf Life of Pork in Mind

Like any food, pork has a finite shelf life. A good general rule of thumb is to only keep meet in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days after purchase. At that point it is time to either cook it or freeze the meat. Beyond 4 days the freshness and safety diminishes and the pork should be discarded to prevent food poisoning and a bad taste when eating. Here is a table of the shelf life of pork.





Past Printed Date

Past Printed Date

Uncooked Fresh Pork Chops

6-8 Months

1-2 Days

Uncooked Fresh Ground Pork

6-8 Months

1-2 Days

Uncooked Fresh Pork Shoulder

6-8 Months

1-2 Days

Uncooked Fresh Pork Loin

6-8 Months

1-2 Days

Uncooked Pork Sausage

6-8 Months

3-4 Days

Cooked Pork Shoulder/ Loin/ Chops/ Sausage

6-8 Months

7 Days

4. Store It Properly

Proper storage of pork is important to prevent spoiling. Use freezer bags to store pork in either the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to unwrap from the store plastic wrapped package. Refrigerated pork must be consumed within 4 days to ensure freshness. If it can't be cooked by then, place in the freezer to keep it for up to an additional 4 months. Remove as much excess air before sealing to minimize freezer burn and oxidation. The minimum refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit and any frozen pork should be consumed within 6 months of the date it went into the freezer. Some recommend freezing cooked leftover meat, but the taste often leaves less than something to be desired.