Expiration Dates Explained

by Julie Divis January 22, 2019

Expiration Dates Explained

Sell by, Use by, Best by, Freeze by, do you know the difference?

How long can you keep beef? How long can you keep dairy? Julie Divis, our Quality Manager is here to save the day (or at least explain the actual science behind them) and help us all understand how expiration dates work on different types of products in the grocery store.

Expiration dates are not designed to tell when a product is safe or unsafe to eat. The purpose of these dates is to tell you when a product is of its best quality so that you can have the best eating experience at home. You've seen many variations for "expiration date" because there is no regulation around wording it. The words sell typically used by stores that package their food.

Sell By, Best Before, Freeze by, or Use By Expiration Dates

You'll see the words "sell by" on butcher counter items, deli items, or in the prepared food section. These dates indicate when you should purchase the product by, not when you can eat it at home. After this date, it's really up to you as the consumer to determine if it meets your expectations. Companies will use "best before" or "best if used by" to describe when their products are of their best quality. Examples of these products include crackers, spices, or other shelf-stable ingredients. You can also find this expiration date phrase in your store's freezer section. You will find the phrase "use by" on perishable food items such as dairy and pre-packaged meats. The taste and texture might be off. Companies will use this phrase to tell you when you should eat their products because, after that date, they cannot guarantee the product will meet your quality expectations. 

At Pre, we use the phrase "use of freeze by" to tell you when to eat our product or put it in the freezer. You'll find that Pre meat has a longer shelf life than meat you purchase behind the counter. This is because Pre is vacuum sealed, and we've conducted many tests to ensure that your product has the highest quality until the date on the package. Temperature is critical to quality; because our products are refrigerated, you must shop for perishable items last. Have a cooler bag in your car for the commute home, and put your perishable products in the refrigerator as quickly as possible. 

Here is our helpful video about expiration dates. Check it out and be sure to comment with any questions you might still have.

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