Ground Beef Turning Brown? This is Why!

Ground Beef Turning Brown? This is Why!

Ground beef refers to meat that has been finely chopped with a knife, meat grinder, or minced machine ready for cooking.

You can easily use ground meat for various recipes such as hamburgers, sandwiches, and lasagna. Ground beef is a good source of proteins, vitamins, minerals and is very juicier and delicious. 

Why does ground beef turn brown? Ground beef turns brown due to the oxygen contents during the refrigerator storage.

If you happen to store the ground beef for 4-5 days, it may turn brown. However, the meat is still safe to cook as long as it doesn’t have a foul odor or a tacky feeling.

Is it Safe to Eat Brown Ground Beef?

Yes. It’s perfectly safe to eat ground beef that has turned brown.

Change in color alone cannot be considered as spoilage as you need to look further to your meat.

So, it’s good to ensure that you keep your ground meat in the refrigerator to retain the freshness and prevent contamination.

Extending the storage will spoil your meat. If you notice some off odor, sticky touch, and discoloring, then you’re sure to throw it away.

Your ground meat is already spoilt, and consuming it will leave you sick, and in some cases, the symptoms can be severe. 

If you happen to eat the brown ground beef and experience abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, the chance is that you ate contaminated meat.

To avoid the chances of your brown ground beef getting spoilt quickly, ensure that you check the sell-by date and buy from a reliable supplier to be on the safe side.

Besides, ground beef can be a popular food and also very perishable, and you should therefore notice the spoilage signs to avoid getting sick.

Understanding the Color Change in Ground Beef

Ground beef turning brown is a normal biochemical reaction involving myoglobin and oxygen.

This color change doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage.

In fact, fresh ground beef typically appears a robust red color in display cases, but after storing in your refrigerator or freezer, it changes color.

This is due to the interaction between oxygen and myoglobin, a naturally occurring protein in the meat.

Even when frozen, shades of brown can appear on ground beef due to the lack of oxygen in a vacuum-sealed package.

It’s important to note that ground beef turning brown is not an indicator of whether it’s good to eat or not.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms that frozen beef products remain safe to eat indefinitely. Ground beef turning brown is not an exception, as long as it was safe to eat before freezing.

Why Does Ground Beef Turn Brown?

You might have noticed that when you purchase your ground beef, the color is mostly pink or red, but once you refrigerate, it turns brown. As you know, ground meat contains proteins.

Once you keep it in the refrigerator, it lacks oxygen exposure and changes the color to brown.

The formation of the brownish-red color on the inside is due to metmyoglobin.

The pigment occurs when the myoglobin comes into contact with the store lighting in the refrigerator.

However, you should not toss the brown ground beef away if there are no other characteristics that show the meat is bad.

It’s also good you ensure that you do not keep your ground meat longer in the fridge. Not only will it turn brownish, but it also will change in flavor, which you might not like.

The fat in the ground beef will oxidize more, and your meat will be tasteless. So, it’s good to store your ground beef for at least 2-3 days to prevent contamination and retain its flavor.

Identifying Spoiled Ground Beef

While the color change in ground beef is normal, there are signs to look out for that indicate spoilage.

Ground beef that has not been properly packaged, refrigerated, or has expired begins to take on a dull grayish color when it starts to decline.

If the hamburger looks gray or shows blue or green spots, it’s best to throw it away.

Another sign of spoilage is texture. When hamburger starts to spoil, it accumulates a slimy or sticky texture.

Lastly, meats typically take on a funky odor when they turn bad. If your ground beef does not pass these appearance, texture, or smell tests, it is better to be safe than sorry.

How Can You Prevent Ground Meat From Turning Brown?

You should know that there is little that you can do to prevent ground meat from turning brown if you plan on storing it in the refrigerator. Your best bet will be to cook your ground meat immediately after purchasing it.

However, if you handle your ground meat with care, despite it turning brown, it will still be safe to cook it.

So, how do you this:

  • Check the expiry date of your ground meat before purchasing and notice the color. However, some suppliers may use carbon monoxide to retain the red color of the ground meat.
  • Check the packaging of the meat to prevent buying ground meat that is already exposed or contaminated. Ensure the ground meat is in good condition and no holes or splitting in the packaging. 
  • Minimize the chances of mixing your raw meat with other food items. You should therefore keep your raw ground meat separately to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Wrap your ground meat in oxygen impermeable materials to prevent oxidation. Ground meat has fat that is highly perishable and should not be left out at room temperature. If you have no plans of cooking your meat in 2-3 days, you can always freeze it.
  • Refrigerate within 2 hours after purchasing to prevent contamination. Your raw or cooked ground meat should not stay out for more than 2 hours. Failure to observe this food safety may increase the risk of food poisoning.

What if I Eat Ground Beef That Has Turned Brown?

You have no worries if you happen to eat ground beef that has turned brown. You are not at any risk unless the meat is not only brown but has already spoilt. Spoilage bacteria will affect the flavor of your ground beef and its quality. You do not want to eat meat that has lost its flavor.

Eating ground beef that has stayed in the fridge for more than three days will increase your risk of getting food-borne diseases. The symptoms can be chronic and might require medical attention. 

So, how do you know that your brown ground beef is still fresh? Check the texture and the smell. Make sure that it’s not sticky and has no foul odor. If the ground meat has wholly turned brown and has so some grey greenish spots, you need to toss it away immediately.

Final Thoughts

  • Ground beef refers to meat that has been finely chopped with a knife, meat grinder, or minced machine ready for cooking. It’s rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Ground beef turns brown due to the oxygen contents during the refrigerator storage.
  • It’s perfectly safe to eat ground beef that has turned brown. Change in color alone does not mean that the meat is spoilt. Check the expiry before purchasing and buy from a reliable supplier.
  • Ground beef turns brown due to proteins, also known as myoglobin, that lack oxygen exposure and forms a pigment called metmyoglobin that changes to brown.
  • To prevent your ground beef from turning brown, handle it with care as it’s highly perishable. Purchase meat in good condition and store separately to prevent cross-contamination,
  • Store your ground beef using oxygen impervious materials, and refrigerate or freeze before 2 hours.
  • You have no worries if you happen to eat ground beef that has turned brown. However, check the smell and texture to ensure that your brown ground beef is not spoilt.