How Long Is Chicken Good For After Sell By Date?

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It’s always a good idea to check your fridge for expired food items, but did you know that chicken has an expiration date as well? Many people are unaware of the shelf life of a chicken and do not realize how long it is safe to store after its ‘Sell By’ date. In this article, we will explore why having expired meat in your refrigerator can potentially be dangerous, how to identify whether or not your chicken is still edible after its Sell By Date and provide helpful tips on prolonging the freshness of poultry. So if you’ve ever wondered “How Long Is Chicken Good For After Sell By Date” then read on!

What exactly is the sell-by date, and why is it important?

Have you ever wondered what the sell-by date on your groceries actually means? This label indicates the last day the store can sell the product, informing consumers about when a food item is at its freshest and safest.

However, it’s important to note that the sell-by date is not actually an expiration date. While consuming food past the sell-by date is not recommended, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the item is harmful to eat.

Instead, the date is a guide for both grocery stores and consumers to ensure that food is of the highest quality possible before it starts to go bad.

What exactly is the sell-by date, and why is it important

What does the sell-by date on chicken mean?

The sell-by date on chicken refers to a label supplied by manufacturers or retailers that indicates when the chicken should be sold. It serves as a guideline for both the retailer and the consumer to assure the freshness and quality of the chicken.

The sell-by date means the following:

  • Freshness: The sell-by date is established to ensure that the chicken purchased by the consumer is still fresh and of high quality.
  • Show Period: It specifies the time frame for retailers to show the chicken for sale. Customers will have enough time to purchase and devour the chicken before it begins to decay.
  • Food Safety: After the sell-by date has passed, the chicken might start to lose its peak freshness. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the chicken is automatically unsafe to eat.
  • Slight Variability: Different factors, including temperature control during storage, can affect how long the chicken remains safe and fresh. So, the chicken might still be good for a certain period beyond the sell-by date, but this can’t be guaranteed.
  • Use Your Senses: To determine if the chicken is still safe to eat after the sell-by date, use your senses. Check for any unusual odors, sliminess, or discoloration. If it looks and smells fine, it’s likely safe.
  • Best Practices: It’s recommended to consume the chicken within a few days of the sell-by date for optimal quality. If you won’t be using it in that timeframe, freezing it can extend its shelf life.

How Long Is Chicken Good For After Sell-By Date?

According to the USDA, you can still safely consume chicken up to 2 days after the sell-by date, as long as it has been properly refrigerated and shows no signs of spoilage. However, it’s important to note that the sell-by date is not the same as the expiration date, so using your senses to check for any off-odors or strange colors is key. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and toss out any questionable chicken – your health is worth it!

Use By Date vs. Chicken Sell-By Date

Use By Date:

  • Purpose: Indicates the date until which the product is expected to be at its peak quality and safety.
  • Food Safety: Consuming the product after the “Use By Date” might pose health risks due to potential bacterial growth.
  • Guidance: Products should be consumed or frozen by the “Use By Date” to maintain optimal quality and safety.
  • Examples: Perishable foods like dairy, deli meats, and ready-to-eat salads often have “Use By Dates.”

Chicken Sell-By Date:

  • Purpose: Inform retailers when the chicken should be sold to ensure its freshness and quality.
  • Food Safety: The chicken is typically safe to consume for a few days beyond the “Sell By Date” if properly stored and handled.
  • Guidance: Consumers can buy the chicken on or before the “Sell By Date” and consume it within a few days for the best quality.
  • Examples: Raw poultry, including chicken, often has “Sell By Dates.”

Both date labels serve distinct purposes, with the “Use By Date” focusing on optimal quality and safety for consumers, and the “Chicken Sell By Date” guiding retailers in selling fresh products to customers. It’s important to follow these guidelines to ensure food safety and maintain the quality of the products you consume.

Is it OK to eat chicken after it has passed its sell-by date?

As a consumer, it’s natural to feel an aversion to food that has passed its sell-by date. However, when it comes to chicken, there are a few factors to consider before tossing it out.

  1. First, it’s important to differentiate between the sell-by date and the expiration date.
  2. While the former indicates when the grocery store should sell the product by, the latter denotes the actual safety of consuming the food.
  3. If the chicken has been properly stored and still looks and smells fresh, it may be safe to eat even a few days after the sell-by date.
  4. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and use your best judgment. If in doubt, it’s best to discard the chicken and avoid any possible foodborne illnesses.

What are the risks of eating chicken after its sell-by date?

Consuming chicken after its sell-by date may cause health risks due to bacterial development and deterioration. While the sell-by date serves as a guideline for retailers to assure the freshness of the chicken, it’s vital to note the hazards listed below if you consume chicken beyond that date:

  1. Bacterial Multiplication: As chickens age, dangerous germs such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli can proliferate. Consuming infected chicken can result in foodborne infections, causing symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
  2. Spoilage: After the sell-by date, the quality of the chicken may deteriorate owing to changes in texture, color, and odor. Spoiled chicken may have an unpleasant odor and a slimy texture, indicating that it is no longer safe to consume.
  3. Cross-Contamination: If the chicken comes into contact with other foods in your refrigerator, the risk of cross-contamination increases. Bacteria from the chicken can spread to other foods, leading to potential illness when those foods are consumed.
  4. Food Poisoning: Eating chicken that has gone bad or is contaminated can lead to food poisoning. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe illness, especially for individuals with weakened immune systems, young children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
  5. Unsafe Cooking: Even if you cook chicken after its sell-by date if it was already spoiled or contaminated, cooking might not eliminate all harmful bacteria, leading to foodborne illnesses.

What are the risks of eating chicken after its sell-by date

What should you do if you consume chicken that has beyond its sell-by date?

Nobody wants to eat spoiled food, and consuming chicken that has passed its sell-by date can be dangerous. If you’ve accidentally eaten chicken that has gone bad, taking immediate action is important.

  1. The first step is to check for any symptoms of food poisoning, including vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
  2. You should also drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and seek medical attention if the symptoms persist or worsen.
  3. In the future, it’s essential to check the expiration date on food before consuming it. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and avoid eating food past its expiration date.

How Can I Extend the Life of Fresh Raw Chicken?

One way to extend the life of fresh raw chicken is to store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator, ideally 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Additionally, make sure to cook or freeze the chicken within a few days of purchase to avoid spoilage.

When handling raw chicken, always wash your hands before and after, and avoid cross-contamination with other foods. By following these simple steps, you can safely enjoy fresh raw chicken for days to come.

Can you freeze or cook chicken after the sell-by date?

Freezing Chicken:

  • Freezing chicken before the sell-by date is recommended to extend its shelf life. Label the package with the freeze date.
  • If you plan to freeze chicken on or near the sell-by date, do so before the date expires.
  • Freezing slows down bacterial growth, preserving the quality and safety of the chicken.

Cooking Chicken:

  • Cooking chicken after the sell-by date is possible, but it should be done immediately after purchase or by the use-by date for best results.
  • Cooking thoroughly (reaching an internal temperature of 165°F or 74°C) kills most bacteria. However, if the chicken was already spoiled, cooking may not make it safe to eat.

Important Points:

  • Freezing won’t restore quality; it will only preserve the state of the chicken at the time of freezing.
  • If the chicken smells off, has an unusual texture, or shows signs of spoilage, it’s best to discard it rather than attempt to cook or freeze it.
  • If you choose to cook chicken after the sell-by date, pay close attention to its appearance, smell, and texture before cooking.

Tips To Store Chicken After The Sell By Date

Storing chicken after the sell-by date necessitates close attention to food safety to avoid bacterial growth and foodborne diseases. Here are some pointers to help you securely keep chicken after its expiration date:

  • Check the Chicken: Before storing the chicken, properly inspect it. Do not keep or consume it if it shows signs of deterioration, such as an off odor, sliminess, or strange texture.
  • Refrigeration: If you intend to use the chicken within a day or two of the sell-by date, keep it in the coldest area of the refrigerator, at 40°F (4°C) or below. Store it in its original packing or in an airtight container or resealable bag.
  • Freezing: If you aren’t going to use the chicken right away, consider freezing it. To avoid freezer burn, wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. The freeze date should be written on the package.
  • Portioning: Before preserving a larger piece of chicken, consider portioning it. You can defrost only what you need when you’re ready to utilize it this way.
  • Use-By Date: Even if you freeze the chicken after it has passed its sell-by date, try to use it within a reasonable time frame to retain quality and safety. Frozen chicken should be eaten within a few months.
  • Thawing Safely: If you decide to use frozen chicken, thaw it safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or using a microwave. Never thaw chicken at room temperature, as this can promote bacterial growth.
  • Safe Handling: Always practice safe food handling. Wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces that come into contact with raw chicken to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Cook Thoroughly: When cooking chicken that has been stored beyond the sell-by date, ensure it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill any potential bacteria.
  • Use in Cooked Dishes: Consider using the chicken in cooked dishes that will be thoroughly heated, such as soups, stews, or casseroles. Proper cooking can help eliminate harmful bacteria.
  • Trust Your Senses: If the chicken looks, smells, or feels off at any point during storage, discard it to avoid any health risks.

Conclusion: How Long Is Chicken Good For After Sell-By Date

As we have seen, understanding the sell-by date on chicken can play a vital role in preserving food safety. It is important not to consume chicken that has expired its sell-by date or has been stored improperly since it may cause food poisoning. While some people are comfortable eating chicken that has passed the date, it’s best to be aware of when to use it and when to dispose of it. With proper storage techniques and knowing when it’s time to discard the meat, you can prevent food-related illnesses and extend the shelf life of your chicken. By carefully adhering to these tips, you’ll make sure your family is safe while enjoying luscious meals with fresh pieces of chicken!


Q: How long can I keep frozen chicken?

A: Frozen chicken is safe to consume for several months. Aim to use it within a few months for the best quality.

Q: Can I cook chicken after the sell-by date?

A: Cooking chicken after the sell-by date can be safe if it’s not spoiled. Thoroughly cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Q: Is it safe to eat cooked chicken beyond the sell-by date?

A: Cooked chicken can be consumed a few days after the sell-by date if properly stored in the refrigerator.

Q: What’s the best way to store chicken after the sell-by date?

A: Store chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below and use it within a few days.

Q: Can I use chicken in cooked dishes after the sell-by date?

A: Using chicken in cooked dishes like soups or stews can be safe if the chicken is properly cooked and the dish is heated thoroughly.

Q: When should I be cautious about eating chicken after the sell-by date?

A: If the chicken exhibits any signs of spoilage or an unusual smell, texture, or appearance, it’s best to avoid consuming it.

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