Turkey Question #778170 - Ask Extension

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Turkey Question #778170

Asked November 20, 2021, 7:04 PM EST

Hello, I bought a 23 lb. fresh (not frozen) Butterball turkey last Wednesday (11/17). The sell-by date on it is 11/26. It has been in my refrigerator since I purchased it. We'll barbecue it on Thanksgiving (11/25). Is this too long to keep a turkey in the refrigerator? Should I freeze it now and thaw it on Tuesday? Or should I freeze it for another time and get another one for Thanksgiving? Thank you!

Multnomah County Oregon

Expert Response

Hi Sheri. Fresh and thawed turkeys and other poultry sold at grocery stores are refrigerated at much lower temperatures than home refrigerators.

Our food safety guidance for refrigerating whole, uncooked turkey and poultry is 1 to 2 days at 35 to 40 degrees F. It can be frozen for up to 1 year. If your refrigerator is very cool (32 to 33 degrees F) and the door hasn't been opened very often, you might squeeze 2 more days on that timeline. You might be able to detect signs of spoilage such as off-odors, slimy-ness, color changes, etc. now but you could already have some strong colonies of harmful bacteria growing. I don't recommend serving this turkey at your holiday meal as it could be infamously remembered. Young children (under 10), pregnant women, people with reduced immune systems and adults over 65 should not risk consuming it. What ever you decide to do, you will need to clean any surfaces (large pans, countertops, drips in the refrigerator) the turkey touches with hot soapy water, rinse and apply a sanitizing solution that can air dry for 15 minutes. Salmonella (one likely contaminant) can make pets sick too, so safe disposal is important, as well.

If you want you can also contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish). Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Check out the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Send email questions to MPHotline@usda.gov.

Glenda Hyde Replied November 22, 2021, 3:31 PM EST

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