Remember that package of pasture raised chicken drumsticks you defrosted a few days ago? Is it still good? One question I’ve often heard from customers is, “How long will meat last in my refrigerator?”
The perennial answer to everything is: “It Depends”, but in this case that answer is more satisfying than most. It depends on really just one thing: your refrigerator temperature.
Here is a table adapted from some research in the Journal of Poultry Science (W. G. Shannon and W. J. Stadelman, Journal of Poultry Science #36, p 121-123). For the investigation, the researchers aged freshly processed chicken halves in refrigerated storage and then examined them microscopically for bacterial growth over time.
|Storage Temperature||Days to Spoilage|
As is evident, everything depends on the temperature of your refrigerator. Colder storage dramatically extends storage time. Most high-quality refrigerators can keep a temperature in the 34-38 degree range, so you have about nine days of storage at this temperature. If you are in doubt, it would be easy reassurance to purchase an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer to keep on the shelf.
The US Food Safety website offers much more cautious numbers for refrigerating poultry. They only recommend one or two days. There are two reasons for this. They assume the worst case, that you’ve put in it a weak, old fridge that has a hard time holding a steady temperature. They also assume that the meat may have been sitting in a store’s refrigerated meat case for some time before you purchased it.
We flash freeze our pasture raised chicken within 24 hours of packaging. By freezing it we can get it to your home in the best possible condition, eliminating any degradation that typically happens when packages sit on store shelves.
If you thaw your package of chicken in the refrigerator, then the clock starts ticking once most of the ice is out of the meat. If you thaw your meat on the countertop or in a bowl of water, then recognize that you’ve entered a higher temperature domain and you have less time, especially if the meat has come up to room temperature. In that case it should be cooked the same day.
These storage recommendations hold true for all our pasture raised chicken products, including whole chickens and all the cuts such as breasts or wings. It will also be valid for our pasture raised turkeys. The only exception would be for our ground pasture raised turkey product. When meat is whole, any bacteria present will be in a layer on the surface. When meat is ground, the meat is chopped and blended together, creating more effective surface area for bacterial growth. For ground poultry products I’d recommend limiting storage to two days unless you know that your refrigerator is operating below 37 degrees, in which case you can stretch it to three to four days.
For more reading on Pasture Raised Chicken here at Wrong Direction Farm, I recommend starting with All About Pasture Raised Chicken, and from there you can branch out to all sorts of pastured poultry related content we’ve written. We love to hear from our customers with any questions related to the food we produce on our farm, so please get in touch if this topic brings to mind any questions we haven’t answered.