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How to Tell if Ground Turkey Is Bad

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Ground turkey is becoming more popular as people focus on finding healthier, more sustainable meat sources.

Turkey is a lean meat that is high in protein. It can be more affordable than ground beef.

People new to ground turkey understandably wonder how to keep it fresh for as long as possible and tell if ground turkey is bad.

Typically, ground turkey is bad if there is a foul smell coming from the package.

Also, sometimes ground turkey changes into a dark color that looks grey or like the meat is covered with mold. Finally, bad ground turkey develops a slimy coat that almost glistens.

turkey raw meat on wooden board

If you spot any of these signs on your ground turkey, it’s time to throw it in the trash and buy some fresh meat. Don’t take any chances by eating potentially rotten meat.

Eating bad ground turkey can make you sick and even send you to the hospital if you eat enough of it.

Here are some ways to tell if ground turkey is bad and other information you need to know about storing it.

What Does Bad Raw Ground Turkey Look and Smell Like?

Raw ground turkey should be light pink and have a faint meat odor. There should be some marbling in the meat, but don’t expect a lot of fat because turkey is a relatively lean protein.

Typically, ground turkey is a mix of light meat in the breast and dark meat from the thigh and legs. So, you’ll get some variety in color when you buy a ground turkey patty, for instance.

Regarding smell, there shouldn’t be any strong odor coming from packaged ground turkey. It should smell similar to raw chicken. If you smell anything that’s off-putting or sour, the turkey is bad and should go in the trash.

Raw ground turkey meat laid on brown paper

Give It a Feel

One way to tell if the ground turkey is still fresh is to handle it a bit. Pick a piece up or press your fingertips into the meat.

Fresh ground turkey should be soft but have a firmness to it. It should be moist, but there shouldn’t be any liquid around any part of the meat. There should also not be any excess liquid buildup in the packaging.

If your ground turkey feels slimy or mashes together very easily, it’s likely too old and should go in the garbage bin. When you make turkey burger patties from ground turkey, you should have to use a bit of force to push the meat together. It shouldn’t mash together too easily.

What Happens if You Eat Spoiled Turkey?

Spoiled turkey can make you sick, so you shouldn’t take any chances eating rotten or expired ground turkey. It’s not worth the risk.

In severe cases, bad ground turkey can send you to the hospital. In mild cases, you’ll get a stomachache or may even vomit.

Turkey is one of the more affordable meats out there, so toss any rotten meat into the trash can and run to grab some fresh meat from the grocery store. When in doubt, it’s always best to exercise caution when dealing with raw meat.

Ground turkey fillet

How Long Is Ground Turkey Good in the Fridge

Ground turkey should last up to around a week in the fridge. Anything longer than that, and you’ll see it start to darken in color from oxidization. There is also the likelihood that there will be a layer of slime developing on the surface of the meat if you run your fingers over it.

In an ideal situation, you should keep the turkey and any other meat in the freezer until it’s time to eat it.

Defrost it the same day or the day before you eat it. It takes some planning but guarantees you’re not eating bad meat.

How long is ground turkey good in the freezer?

Well, it can last virtually forever if you keep it frozen. You have to worry about keeping it frozen because it will thaw in a power outage or if your freezer breaks down. When meat thaws and then re-freezes, the meat changes and is not the same as before you thawed it.

When Turkey Smells Bad

What should you do if ground turkey smells bad but is not expired?

Some people encounter this issue, especially when they leave the ground turkey on the countertop or forget it’s in the fridge for several days.

Never take chances with poultry that smells strange. If you open the ground turkey and smell something funky, put it in the trash and make something else. It’s always smart to be safe, particularly when handling or cooking raw poultry.

Tasty homemade ground baked turkey meatloaf in white plate on wooden table

How Long Does Cooked Ground Turkey Last?

Ground turkey is a fantastic substitute for ground beef. You can put it in chili, make burgers with it, or cook your favorite family pasta meal for dinner.

Thankfully, the ground turkey will last much longer in the fridge once you cook it. In some recipes, like chili, the ground turkey will be good for weeks.

If it’s suspended in any sort of sauce, you can keep it in the fridge and take it out for leftovers or meal preparation without concern.

Plain ground turkey may not last as long, but you should still get at least a couple of weeks of shelf life once you cook it.

What’s the best way to store ground turkey? Keep it in a sealed container whenever possible.

Air exposure and moisture are the main things that will make cooked ground turkey begin to turn. If you keep it in something air-tight, then you’ll get more days and weeks of fresh meat.


Ground turkey is a terrific protein source, and it goes very well in a ton of recipes. If you have the option at your local grocery store, start giving it a try!

Just be wary of any ground turkey that changes colors or starts to smell. Like chicken, raw turkey can carry E. coli, which, in severe cases, can be fatal when eaten or absorbed into the body.

Be safe and only cook raw turkey you are sure is fresh. As long as it looks pink and clean and doesn’t smell weird, you should be in the clear when it’s time to cook a delicious dinner.