Ground Meat & Poultry


Ground Beef


Storing raw ground beef


If refrigerated, keep at 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below and use within 1 or 2 days.


For longer freezer storage, store in heavy duty plastic wrap, aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezer use. Ground beef is safe indefinitely if kept frozen, but is best used within 4 months because it will lose quality over time. Mark packages with the date they were placed in the freezer.


Thawing ground beef


The best way to safely thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. Keeping meat cold while it is defrosting is essential to prevent the growth of bacteria. Cook or refreeze within 1 or 2 days.


To defrost ground beef more rapidly, use a microwave oven or in cold water. If microwaving, cook the ground beef immediately because some areas may begin to cook during defrosting. To defrost in cold water, submerge meat in a watertight bag. Change water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately. Do not refreeze raw ground meat thawed in cold water or in the microwave unless it is cooked first.


Never leave ground beef or any perishable food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.


Safe cooking


The USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or undercooked ground beef because it may contain harmful bacteria. To be sure all bacteria are destroyed, cook meatloaf, meatballs, and hamburgers to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F (71.1 °C). Use a food thermometer to check temperature.


Pre-packaged ground beef color


Oxygen reacts with meat pigments to form the bright red color usually seen on the surface of meat. Fresh cut meat is purplish in color. The interior of the meat may be grayish brown due to lack of oxygen. If all the meat in the package has turned gray or brown, it may be beginning to spoil.


Cooked ground beef patties may appear brown before they reach a safe internal temperature due to oxidation of the fresh ground beef pigment, and can occur with prolonged thawing of frozen ground beef or refrigerator storage of thawed ground beef. 


Ground beef may remain pink at temperatures above 160 °F. This phenomenon is primarily associated with the pH and the level of pigment in the meat, as well as the fat content. 




Ground Poultry


Storing raw ground poultry


Upon purchase, raw ground poultry can be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or below for up to two days, or in the freezer at 0°F or below for up to four months.  Wrap in aluminum foil, heavy duty plastic wrap, freezer paper, or plastic bags made for freezer use for frozen storage.  Mark packages with the date they were placed in the freezer.


Thawing ground poultry


FSIS recommends three ways to thaw chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Never thaw chicken on the counter or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator.


Chicken may be thawed in cold water in airtight packaging or a leak-proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold. Cook immediately after thawing.


Chicken thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.


Do not cook frozen chicken in a slow cooker or in the microwave; thaw it before cooking. 


Safe cooking


Ground poultry and ground poultry dishes should always be cooked to 165 °F internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer; leftovers should also be reheated to 165 °F.







Ground Beef & Food Safety Fact Sheet – USDA FSIS:


Color of Cooked Ground Beef as it Relates to Doneness Fact Sheet:


Ground Poultry and Food Safety Fact Sheet – USDA FSIS:


Chicken from Farm to Table Fact Sheet – USDA FSIS: