Pork, like other raw meats, is very perishable, and should be eaten before its expiration date for the best product quality and safety. Going beyond this date increases the chances of food spoilage and foodborne illness. If you have more fresh pork than you can eat, freeze it ahead of its expiration date to save it for a later meal. Always follow safe handling and preparation practices when working with raw pork to prolong its shelf life.
There are two types of expiration date labels that appear on raw pork. If your pork has a "use-by" label, that date should be adhered to, as food beyond this date is considered expired. If it is labeled with a "sell-by" date, it can be stored for an additional three to five days in your refrigerator. Even before either one of these dates pass, if pork has an off-odor or appearance it should be discarded; expiration dates do not ensure safety of a pork product.
Cooked & Processed Pork
For cooked and processed pork products, similar rules apply to their safety and quality as fresh pork. When cooked and processed pork products have a "use-by" date, this date should always be adhered to. When these products have a "sell-by" date, they can be safely stored in your refrigerator for three to five days when unopened, and another three to five days once opened. As with raw pork products, if you detect any off odors or appearance, discard the pork products regardless of expiration date.
Handle With Care
There are many factors that can contribute to pork spoiling before expiration date. The mishandling of food leads to many more problems than passing the expiration date itself. Be sure that you do no leave pork to defrost at room temperature for more than two hours, practice good sanitation and avoid cross contamination in your kitchen to prevent foodborne illness. If you ever detect off odors when preparing pork, regardless of the expiration date, it should be discarded.
Freezer Pork Storage
If you are unable to use a package of pork before its expiration date, freeze it for longer storage. Freezing food stops the growth of spoilage microorganisms indefinitely, though quality will suffer after prolonged freezing. Use freezer-safe bags or containers when storing pork to prevent air exposure, and use the pork within six months for the best quality. Be sure to defrost pork in the refrigerator, submerged in cold water or in the microwave to prevent spoilage.
Based in Portland, Ore., Maxine Wallace is a writer with more than 12 years of experience. With a bachelor's degree in journalism and experience working on marketing campaigns for large media agencies, she is well-versed in multiple industries including the Internet, cooking, gardening, health, fitness, travel and holistic living.