That should be a simple question correct? Even when talking about food correct? Well it isn’t sometimes, as I have learned the short time I worked a stint in a meat department. Yes, I said meat department; and in this age when we have to worry about E Coli in our foods on a dramatic increase. To have to worry about the date on your packaged meats in the grocery store isn’t a good thing.
A few years back I found myself in a job working as a meat wrapper in a grocery store and it was a first time doing that particular job. Having worked in fast food I was very good about checking dates on things and that was one of the few things my boss did not have to teach me.
Now my boss had learned the butchers trade back when they still taught by having the students work from the “primal” cuts, which effectively means just cut from the carcass; then cut into the “cuts” we know today. Most butchers are not taught this way any more, my boss also had a side job of butchering people’s deer for them in season.
He loved to complain about how long some of the people would leave the meat hang before calling him to butcher it for them. One man it seems left it hanging for two weeks before calling him and well, at that point it was way to far gone for him to do anything with it.
He would also complain about one “full service” butcher shop in one of the other towns. His complaint was it’s sanitary practices, which I do have to say seemed a bit lax. My bosses where much better sanitary wise, but I’ll leave that there for now.
Now here is a bit of useful info for any meat eaters out there. By law (in most states) ground meat can only be sold for 24 hours, after that they must be tossed due to possibility of bacterial growth. Meat departments will put them on discount to get them out instead of tossing them. This is a fairly normal practice from what I have seen and asked about.
Now my boss in the store I worked when something would come into the back due to a date, my boss would “check”. Now to check anything, he would open it, sniff it and move it a little and see if anything is discolored past normal loss of color. Yes, red meats do lose color as they sit. Well if there was no bad smell he would have me re-wrap it and put a one day date on it and then after that day we’d do the same.
Now sometimes, he would take red meat and put it into the ground beef if it was past the initial date. Sometimes if a turkey was past date he would open them, cut them up, and have me wrap them with a 2 day date on them and then they’d be tossed.
Now a days due to seeing all this I am very careful about meat I buy. If I buy something “old dated” I make sure I know it is before I decide to buy it. I will buy something discounted, I have no issue with this. However, I do not like it when there is a possibility of the meat being bad and I don’t know it. I have gotten sick off of foods and not knowing why. Until I worked in that meat department. I no longer buy fish unless I live close to a water source big enough that there are fishing boats, or it is frozen.
Food poisoning is no fun, I’ve experienced it before. Also, when I took the food safety class I learned something that most people don’t know. I learned that there is no such thing as “24 hour flu”. My instructor told my class that these people most likely had food poisoning and did not realize it.
The time I spent in the meat department is one of the reasons I am working towards growing all my own food, even the meat portion. I’m no vegetarian, I like eating meat to much for that especially chicken and fish. I do want people to keep their minds and eyes open while they shop. Otherwise you might wind up with a surprise in your fridge or freezer and not know it. So make sure you know what the date is.