Q&A with Donna Gates: When Do Eggs, Meats, Fermented Foods & These Other Foods Go Bad?

Many of us look for the “use by” dates on packages of meat, eggs, and dairy products as an indicator for how safe our food is to eat. But the dates on food are largely unregulated by any organization, with the exception of infant formula and some baby food.

How can you protect yourself and your family and eat healthy, unspoiled food?

Spoiled eggs are very rare, but how can you be sure that you are getting fresh eggs and not food poisoning? Our guidelines (and easy at-home test) will build your immunity to protect you from salmonella and educate you on buying and storing your food for freshness.

Good Food Gone Bad

In general, individual manufacturers determine the dates stamped on their food. Fortunately, they often allow for a few days to a week of freshness beyond the “sell by” date.

Still, it’s good to educate yourself about industry practices so that you get the best and healthiest foods possible!

But here’s a fact most people aren’t aware of: Sell by dates don’t matter nearly as much as proper food storage.

Perishable items must be refrigerated at or below 40 degrees at all times. If meats or dairy products rise above 40 degrees, they can become a breeding ground for bad bacteria. While you can’t always know how your food was handled as it made its way to you, it is easy for you to keep your purchases in a cooler on the way home and transfer them immediately to your refrigerator.

We’ve found that a collapsible cooler on wheels is a wonderful way to transport groceries. It’s easy to leave in your car for the times you need it most.

Besides proper food storage and handling, you can do your best to choose the freshest foods.

With little regulation on freshness labeling, it’s no surprise we are often asked questions about how to tell if meat, eggs, poultry and fermented foods and drinks are fresh. In this article, we’ll answer your questions and give tips that you can use at home!

Q. What’s the best way to determine if your meat is fresh?

A. First look at the food, and then look at the date.

Meat should be bright pink or red. Fish should be firm and have no fishy smell. If the head is on, then the eyes will be clear- not cloudy.

It’s actually legal for meat to be repackaged with a later date, so only purchase from a trusted source. Examine the meat and fish carefully and if you follow the guidelines above, you should be able to determine their freshness.

If you’d like the convenience of shopping online try the wild Alaskan salmon from Vital Choice. You can trust them for both freshness and purity – including purity from harmful toxins present in so much other fish on the market.

For meat, poultry, eggs, there’s nothing like home delivery from US Wellness Meats online store for the ultimate in freshness.

Q. What about eggs? How long do they last?

A. Eggs, a staple of the Body Ecology program, can last 3 to 5 weeks if purchased before the date on the carton.

This makes eggs a convenient food to keep on hand at all times, since there is little chance for spoilage.

Try this easy at-home test to see if an egg is good:

Fill a bowl with water. A very fresh egg will sink to the bottom while a bad egg will float.1

Are you worried about salmonella? Pathogens like bad bacteria can cause food-borne illnesses and their uncomfortable symptoms. You might be relieved to know that you can protect yourself and your loved ones from food-borne illnesses by building a strong, hardy, vital inner ecosystem. The microflora in your intestines play many roles and one of them is to keep you healthy by protecting your from pathogens in foods.

Learn more about food poisoning and how to protect yourself naturally in Foodborne Illness: The 7 Natural Ways to Defend Yourself Against It

Q. My family drinks unpasteurized milk. What’s the best way to store it?

A. Always refrigerate your milk (pasteurized or not) at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to make your milk last even longer and be easier to digest, consider making it into milk kefir. Ancient cultures fermented milk to preserve it, and you can do the same thing today, especially with unpasteurized milk!

Althought not for everyone, milk kefir can be a healthy addition to your diet if you are in stage 2 of the Body Ecology program (Stage two starts when you have re-populated your gut with dairy-loving bacteria by drinking probiotic liquids like Coco-Biotic). Homemade milk kefir from unpasteurized milk contains healthy proteins, minerals and fats that can nourish your body if it’s a food that works for your body.

You can use organic, pasteurized milk for homemade kefir too. In fact, fermenting pasteurized milk makes it safer to drink and easier to digest. Pasteurized milk often contains pathogens since it lacks the beneficial microflora found in raw milk taken from healthy grass-fed cows. When you ferment pasteurized milk it adds back enzymes lost during pasteurization. Read more about the dangers of pasteurized foods in: The Pasteurized Foods You Should Consider Avoiding And the Healthy Reasons Why.

Body Ecology’s fermented food and drink starters can help you preserve foods longer AND help you establish a healthy inner ecosystem. Kefir Starter is great for making your own milk or Young Coconut Kefir!

General Guidelines to Keep You Safe

The best way to keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness is to enhance your immunity naturally by eating a healthy probiotic diet.

When you have a healthy inner ecosystem, pathogenic bacteria and yeast will find it difficult to gain ground inside you and make you sick. Besides that, follow these guidelines at the market and at home as you choose and prepare healthy foods.

  • Look at the product, not the date.
  • At home, when in doubt, throw it out.
  • Question your supplier, whether a store or individual seller. Find out how long they display their meats.
  • Treat every perishable as if it will melt like ice cream. Pack it in ice, in a cooler and put it away as soon as possible.

To give you an idea of how long you can store some common foods, use our easy list:

  • Roasts, steaks, chops 3-5 days (wrapped loosely)
  • Ground, chopped or stew meat 1-2 days (wrapped loosely)
  • Whole chicken, turkey, duck, goose 3-5 days (wrapped loosely)
  • Cut-up poultry 3 days (wrapped loosely)
  • Fish 3 days (stored on ice and covered)
  • Fatty fish, like salmon 1-2 days (stored on ice and covered)
  • Milk 5-7 days after the sell-by date
  • Eggs 3-5 weeks if purchased before the date on the carton
  • Butter 2 weeks (covered)

And to obtain the added protection against pathogenic microflora that might be on the foods you eat and drink, make your own probiotic-rich fermented foods and drinks. They will help you create a more robust inner ecosystem where beneficial microflora flourish to keep you healthy and strong.

When it comes to meat, eggs, fish and poultry, these tips and your healthy Body Ecology program will help you avoid the worries of food poisoning, so you can be at your healthy best!


How To Tell If You’ve Got a Bad Egg. http://www.ochef.com/789.htm.
2 Severson, Kim, “The Dating Game,” The Chronicle, 10 Jan 2001.

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