Why does ground beef turn brown and can I still eat it?

A man sparked an interesting conversation online after he took to Reddit when he had concerns about the changing color of his ground beef.  After noticing his ground beef was turning grey and brown, Reddit user u/buffedseaweed hopped on Reddit’s Cooking forum for some rapid-fire advice. 

“I bought the meat from the groceries on Saturday, and had it refrigerated ‘till today (Monday)” began the man. But when he took the ground beef out of the fridge, he noticed something strange. “Part of the meat turned greyish brown,” he continued.

The poster, who was planning to throw together a “stew-like cuisine,” had a simple question: Was his discolored ground beef safe to eat? 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fresh ground beef is purplish in color. The bright red color you see on store-bought meat is the work of oxygen interacting with the meat pigments. If your ground beef is starting to turn grey-ish brown, it’s likely from lack of oxygen.

Scientifically speaking, color changes from oxidation are normal, but it’s also a sign that your meat might be starting to spoil, so you should definitely investigate further before cooking it. 

According to the USDA, “This darkening (of raw beef) is due to oxidation, the chemical changes in myoglobin due to the oxygen content. This is a normal change during refrigerator storage. Beef that has turned brown during extended storage may be spoiled, have an off-odor, and be tacky to the touch and should not be used”.

The poster, who shared that the grey sections of the meat had an “off” smell, ended up making the right decision by throwing out his ground beef, after receiving some helpful advice from fellow Redditors. 

So next time you notice your ground beef turning brown or grey, give it a sniff, give it a poke, and make the right call! 

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