Once you get a whiff of a bad piece of chicken, the smell is forever recognizable. Not only is smelly poultry unappetizing, it may also put your health at risk if ingested. If you question the freshness of putrid smelling chicken -- better safe than sorry. The risk of foodborne illness is simply not worth the risk. Throw the smelly piece of poultry away and don’t even give a second thought to cooking and eating it.
Ooh That Smell
Rotten eggs and chicken both give off a sulfur smell when they go bad. This smell is associated with spoilage caused by strains of dangerous bacteria. Low-temperature storage and poor packaging practices are usually responsible for the overgrowth of these dangerous bacterium that may lead to foodborne illness. While the smell of sulfur is usually a dead giveaway that the chicken is bad, a few other clues may also be present.
Slimy Color Changes
Along with the bad sulfur smell, you may also notice some color changes in spoiled chicken. Darkening or fading of the meat often accompanies the unappetizing odor of bad chicken. Chicken that smells bad may also feel slimy to the touch. The slimy feel results when bacteria begins to accumulate on the outer surface of the chicken, and may also indicate tissue and protein breakdown in the meat.
The bacteria present on bad smelling chicken that causes all of these indicators of spoilage may also cause serious illness if ingested. Common symptoms of foodborne illness often mimic flu systems. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and in some instances, fever. While the healthiest of people may ingest these bacteria without incurring any symptoms, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems tend to be the most symptomatic.
Store it Right
Chicken keeps up to two days in the refrigerator, stored in tightly-sealed, leak-proof containers to prevent juices from contaminating other foods or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, heavy-duty foil or sealed plastic storage bags. In the freezer, chicken remains safe to eat indefinitely, with pieces experiencing changes to taste and texture after nine months and whole chickens experiencing the same quality loss after one year in the freezer. Prevent freezer burn by tightly wrapping the chicken in freezer wrap, freezer storage bags, heavy-duty foil or airtight freezer storage containers.
- Google Books: Handbook of Meat, Poultry and Seafood Quality
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: The Color of Meat and Poultry
- Weber State University: Microorganisms and Food Spoilage
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Foodborne Illness: What Consumers Need to Know
- Foodsafety.org: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Chicken From Farm to Table
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images