Usually, people just rely on color to judge the status of frozen foods, especially fresh foods like meat. As a result, they often assert that meat that turns green when preserved in freezer indicates that it has spoiled and needs to be thrown away. This statement is entirely wrong.
Fresh meat before freezing is usually bright red. After freezing it can turn red-brown, light brown or green. The color of the poultry usually does not change, but the bones may turn dark. The cause may be due to the loss of water in the meat during the freezing process, oxidation or the food is stored for too long.
Therefore, many other factors must be considered to determine if your frozen meat is still usable. In this article, we will provide evidence to answer this question. Have you been wasting food all this time by throwing away the frozen meat turned green?
Is the meat turning green in the freezer spoiled?
Green is an excellent color for vegetables or fruits but not for meat. Green is one of the taboo colors for meat or frozen foods because they show that your meat has been heavily attacked by mold or bacteria and cannot be used anymore.
If you and your family members eat this rotten meat that has turned green, your family’s health will be seriously affected. High heat when baking or sautéing can kill bacteria, but for toxins like mold, this is difficult. That bacteria will still be active no matter how high the cooking temperature is. Therefore, ensure to freeze meat correctly and at the right time.
Why does meat change color when frozen?
To explain why meat changes color when cold, we need to classify them into two groups of objects, red meat and white meat (poultry), because each type of meat has its characteristics related to the cause of their color change.
Red meat vs. White meat
For red meat, the color of the meat is always one of the essential factors determining the freshness and deliciousness of the meat. For this type of meat, you can entirely rely on color to equate the state of the meat.
According to studies, the color of red meat is caused by a protein called myoglobin, which can react with oxygen to form a substance called oxymyoglobin, giving you the vibrant red color that you usually see.
However, not all red meat will be the same in color. The dark and light of the meat depend on many factors, such as: diet, age, species and status of daily living.
As a result, freezing keeps red meat as minimal as possible from exposure to light and air, which changes the meat’s color, causing it to fade or darken.
Poultry is commonly referred to as white meat, poultry includes chicken and turkey.
Like red meat, fresh poultry’s color difference is determined by four fundamental factors. However, chicken does not usually change color when frozen. Therefore, color is one of the signs of spoilage in chickens. Also, you still need to be concerned about texture, taste, and smell variations.
Many studies have shown that when poultry meat is spoiled, it will turn dark, have mucus and an unpleasant odor. However, color is still insufficient in determining whether poultry is spoiled.
Meat changes color due to freezer burn
Once you find that your frozen meat has changed to a gray-brown color in some places, it is a sign of freezer burn. This is also the result of dehydration during freezing because the texture of the meat is not uniform, some places lose more water than others.
If you see brownish gray spots, those are areas that are prone to dehydration and drying out. You might also find that freezer burn creates weird flavors and colors such as a gray, brown, or gray-brown.
Further reading: What Are the Best Cheap Freezers for Home?
Frozen meat changes color due to bacteria
One of the reasons why frozen meat does not spoil is that while it is frozen, the activity of harmful bacteria is inhibited. At a temperature below -18 degree C, all bacteria, microorganisms, yeasts and molds will be inactivated. However when defrosting, the meat returns to a higher temperature, the bacteria will become active again and easily destroy the meat. Therefore, you should note that defrosted meat will be very perishable.
During the process of food freezing, bacteria may have the opportunity to multiply rapidly causing discoloration of meat. In this case, the meat has become spoiled and cannot be used. From personal experience, you may know that meat that changes color due to bacterial growth is often accompanied by a foul, watery odor.
Is discolored meat in the freezer safe?
A discolored piece of meat can be a safe and usable piece of meat. As explained above, the color of meat, especially red meat, is a reaction of the protein in the meat and oxygen, so when not exposed to air and light, the meat will change color. As for poultry meat, experts have also confirmed that this phenomenon is entirely safe if other unusual characteristics do not accompany it.
Therefore, if your meat only changes color, you do not need to worry too much. However, if the discoloration is accompanied by prominent signs such as strange textures, stench, and mucus, you must discard the meat immediately.
Rotten meat will have a characteristic odor, change color and bring a sticky feeling. In case you use this meat will lead to a horrible taste and easy to cause food poisoning. Pay attention to pieces of meat that have changed to purple, gray, green, blue, and white when stored in freezer, they are not safe to eat.
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Is the pork turning green still good?
Spoiled pork may have a sour, slimy smell and be gray or green in color. You need to immediately discard the pork if you notice any of these signs. It’s not safe to cook bad pork. It will increase its unpleasant taste and make you sick.
If kept in the freezer, nitrates during curing can give meat an almost rainbow-green color. This is because they can change pigment when exposed to light and air due to a chemical reaction. This meat is not dangerous to eat.
Is gray beef edible?
When meat is not exposed to oxygen, it turns grayish brown. But that doesn’t mean it’s spoiled. If only the interior is gray, you can bet the oxygen hasn’t touched it and caused it to turn red. In this case, ground beef with a gray interior is safe to eat.
On the other hand, meat that is gray or brown on the whole body, both inside and the top layer, may have already begun to spoil. It is not safe to eat.
Ground beef should be thrown away if it turns brown or gray on the surface as this indicates the meat has begun to rot.
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How long can meat be stored in the freezer?
You must have wondered at some point, how long does meat last in the freezer. Freezing helps to save money and time on shopping. Also, it is the best way of preserving meat because it helps you maximize its shelf life and keep it in its best condition.
However, to complete the freezing process safely, it is important to keep in mind that proper freezing of meat is also essential.
You need to determine the time you eat the meat you buy before storing it. If you want to keep it for a long time, you should put it in a short freezer. Also, avoid constantly changing the position of the meat between the freezer compartment and the cooling compartment. This action will quickly lead to the meat turning green.
The freezing time of cooked meat and raw meat is completely different. Cooked meat can be frozen for 1-2 months.
For raw meat, you might consider the following average:
– Chicken: 1 year
– Boneless pork/beef/lamb: 4-6 months
– Ground pork/beef/sheep: 3-4 months
– Seafood: 1-2 months
The process of discoloration happens to all kinds of meat. If the discoloration appears together with other signs, smell or mold, it is likely that the meat has deteriorated or spoiled. Especially, if you see the meat turned green when stored in freezer, you should throw the meat away immediately.