Can beef go bad in the fridge? (How this can happen)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “can beef go bad in the fridge,” and discuss how to know that the beef has gone bad in the fridge, and how long can I keep raw beef in the fridge.

Can beef go bad in the fridge?

Yes, beef can go bad in the fridge. Due to its high water content and rich nutrient profile, meat is categorized as one of the most perishable food items.

Numerous microorganisms have the potential to cause meat spoilage under suitable conditions, adding to the intricate microbial ecosystem associated with spoiling raw meat.

This complexity makes preventing spoilage quite challenging. In conditions with sufficient oxygen, specific species of the Pseudomonas genus are commonly identified as the primary contributors to meat spoilage.

These species possess the ability to degrade glucose and amino acids, even in refrigerated environments, actively promoting the spoilage process. (1)

How to know beef has gone bad in the fridge?

The key indicators of meat product spoilage encompass changes in texture, the formation of liquids or slime, shifts in coloration, and the emergence of unpleasant odors. These spoilage manifestations typically arise through a range of mechanisms. (2)

What are the main reasons for beef spoilage?

The primary catalyst for spoilage is the inevitable introduction of microorganisms (primarily bacteria). After this introduction, these microorganisms undergo rapid proliferation and engage in metabolic activities during storage.

The sensory alterations can differ based on the specific microbial presence affecting the meat and the storage conditions employed.

The emergence of sensory-based spoilage is connected to the microbial utilization of meat nutrients like sugars and free amino acids, leading to the emission of undesirable volatile byproducts. (1, 2)

What is the best way to store beef?

Along with refrigeration packaging presents an effective approach to extending the shelf life of meat, eliminating the need for chemical preservatives.

These preservation methods involve modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP), wherein gas mixtures with varying concentrations of O2 and CO2 are utilized. This technique is designed to hinder the growth of spoilage-related bacteria and is often coupled with refrigeration.

Leveraging high CO2 concentrations, along with maintaining a low pH and cold storage conditions, can be more effective to impede the growth of foodborne pathogens than vacuum packaging. After opening the best way to store beef in the fridge before cooking is to put it on a plate and cover it with plastic wrap. (1)

How long does beef last in the fridge?

Through the chilling procedure, temperatures are decreased to the span of 2–4 °C, subjecting microbial cells to a cold shock that leads to their impairment and eventual demise.

Sustaining meat at temperatures lower than 4 °C effectively arrests bacterial proliferation, consequently extending its shelf life by several days.

When fresh red meat is appropriately sealed and stored in a chilled setting at 4°C, it can retain its optimal quality for a favorable span of 3 to 5 days. However, if it remains at room temperature for more than two hours, it becomes susceptible to microbial contamination. (3, 4)

What are the health risks of spoiled meat?

Consuming beef that has spoiled can result in illness, manifesting symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. These symptoms emerge from the consumption of food that has been contaminated by either chemical substances or microorganisms and their toxins. (5)

Prominent pathogens commonly associated with fresh meat products include E. coli O157:H7 and related enteric microorganisms like Salmonella. Conversely, the Gram-positive bacterium L. monocytogenes raises concerns in the context of ready-to-eat meat and poultry items. (6)

Can I thaw beef in the fridge?

Yes, you can thaw beef in the fridge. Thawing beef within a refrigerated environment at 4 °C stands out as the most commonly utilized thawing method, although it is regarded as slow and hasn’t been thoroughly compared to other methods concerning their impact on the sensory qualities of beef.

Swifter thawing techniques like microwave or room temperature, can have negative effects on the tenderness and juiciness of the meat. (7)

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can you eat dark beef?

Can you feed beef nuts to sheep?

Can you feed beef nuts to horses?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question “Can beef go bad in the fridge,” and other questions about the subject, such as how to know that the beef has gone bad in the fridge, and how long can I keep raw beef in the fridge.

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Ercolini D, Russo F, Torrieri E, Masi P, Villani F. Changes in the spoilage-related microbiota of beef during refrigerated storage under different packaging conditions. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006.


Pellissery, A. J., Vinayamohan, P. G., Amalaradjou, M. A. R., & Venkitanarayanan, K.  Spoilage bacteria and meat quality. Meat Quality Analysis, 307–334. 2020.


Nethra, Perichitala Vasudev, et al. Critical factors affecting the shelf life of packaged fresh red meat–A Review. Measurement: Food: 100086. 2023.


Leygonie, C., Britz, T. J., & Hoffman, L. C. Impact of freezing and thawing on the quality of meat: Review. Meat Science, 91(2), 93–98. 2012.


Hennekinne, J.-A., Herbin, S., Firmesse, O., & Auvray, F. European Food Poisoning Outbreaks Involving Meat and Meat-based Products. Procedia Food Science, 5, 93–96. 2015.


Sofos, John N. Challenges to meat safety in the 21st century. Meat science 78.1-2, 3-13, 2008.


Gomes CL, Silva TJ, Pflanzer SB, Bolini HMA. Impact of frozen temperature and thawing methods on the Brazilian sensory profile of Nellore beef. Sci agric (Piracicaba, Braz) [Internet]. 78(6):e20200067. 2021.