How to Tell If Ground Turkey Has Gone Bad

Is your raw ground turkey still safe to eat? Here are the signs that tell you if it has gone bad.

a photo of ground turkey with a red X over it
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Ground turkey is a nutritious and lean protein that offers culinary versatility. From turkey chili to meatballs, meat sauce and fillings for dumplings and gyoza, there are many ways to incorporate ground turkey into delicious homemade meals. You can buy this raw minced meat pre-packaged in the grocery store's meat section—but before stocking up, find out how long ground turkey can last in the fridge and if it can be frozen. And keep reading to learn the signs that ground turkey has gone bad and get safe storage tips to make it last longer.

How Long Does Ground Turkey Last in the Fridge?

You may be surprised that ground turkey has a very short shelf life. According to the USDA's FoodKeeper App, uncooked ground turkey lasts in the fridge for one to two days from the date of purchase. Its short shelf life is due to the meat grinding process—grinding exposes any potential bacteria on the meat surface to other areas of the meat, increasing the chances that disease-causing bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes, E.coli and Salmonella, will grow and multiply.

Stowing the ground turkey in the freezer can extend its shelf life to three to four months if the meat is frozen from the date of purchase. Freezing slows down bacteria growth and the rate of spoilage.

Tips for Storing Ground Turkey

Store ground turkey on the bottom shelf and in the coldest part of your fridge for both unopened and opened packages. The fridge's temperature is important—make sure it is set below 40°F to slow down the growth of bacteria. Leave the turkey in its original sealed packaging, as doing so minimizes the meat getting exposed to air. Placing the packaged meat in a plastic produce bag can also reduce cross contamination.

If you decide to use some of the ground meat one day and want to save the rest to cook the next day, put the remaining portion in an airtight container or wrap it tightly with food-grade plastic wrap and label it with the date of storage.

If the ground turkey won't be used within a day or two, you should store it in the freezer. You can leave the meat in its original packaging or portion it into smaller amounts. For the latter, portion the ground meat on the date of purchase and place into airtight containers or sealable food-grade bags. No matter which strategy you choose, remember to write the date of storage before freezing it—ground turkey meat may last up to three to four months when frozen from the date of purchase.

How to Tell If Ground Turkey Has Gone Bad

Despite your efforts in storing the ground turkey properly, the meat may still go bad and deteriorate in quality. Here are some signs that indicate your ground turkey has gone bad.


Fresh raw ground turkey doesn't give off any smell. The meat is likely spoiled if you unwrap the package and smell an unpleasant odor, like a sour scent.

Look & Color

Raw turkey meat should be light pink or beige, depending on the type of meat and its fat content. The meat color becomes dull as time passes, which is normal. However, if the meat has a brown, gray or yellow or green hue, you will want to part ways with it. It is also ready for the trash can or compost bin if you can see visible mold on the meat.

Feel & Texture

If the color of the ground turkey looks OK and it isn't emitting any foul smell, another way to tell if the ground meat has gone bad is to touch it and feel the texture. Does it feel slimy, sticky or dry? If so, toss it out and wash your hands with warm water and soap to avoid cross contamination.


If you didn't see any signs of spoilage or detect any off odors and end up cooking the ground turkey, you might notice that the meat's flavor is off even when it is seasoned or flavored with your favorite herbs, spices and sauces. In this case, it's better to spit the meat out and trash the rest to minimize the chances of getting food poisoning.

What Happens If You Eat Spoiled Ground Turkey?

Eating spoiled ground turkey may lead to foodborne illness, with symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. People with weakened immune systems may experience more severe symptoms. If you're hesitant about your ground turkey, it's best to throw it out and play it safe.

The Bottom Line

Ground turkey is an excellent lean protein choice for your meals, but it has a very short shelf life of one to two days. It will also go bad quickly if it isn't stored properly. If the meat won't be used within a day or two, store it in the freezer and enjoy it within three to four months. If at any point, you notice discoloration, a foul smell or a slimy or tacky appearance to the ground turkey, do not consume it and throw it out.

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