A lot depends upon packaging and temperature.
Does it have a sell-by date stamped on the label? There's a chart here:
In any case, don't go by color. Brown beef is usually the result of oxygen deprivation -- a good thing, despite what most shoppers believe.
In addition to the sell by date guide give the beef a smell. Bad meat will stink like doo-doo
pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.
It also depends to a degree on the cuts; ground beef and organ meats will go off faster than muscle cuts. If you see a lable that say's "Manager's special, reduced for quick sale" use it on the same day.
Lately at a local chain supermarket I've seen ground beef for a surprising low price--- $1.99 per pound. Reading the label closely it reads "Product of USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia..." That is effing scary. Your burger could have cow parts from multiple countries. Contagions spread in the grinding process.
This is one of those rare times I have to disagree with my esteemed colleague Pierino. A "manager's special" indicates the sell-by date is fast approaching. The date is set, somewhat arbitrarily, based on the type of packaging being used. The packaging regulates how quickly the myoglobins in the meat turn from purple to pink to brown due to exposure or lack of exposure to oxygen. Most American shoppers refuse to purchase brown meat, hence the urgency to sell.
This brown coloration should not be confused with the brown that can indicate spoilage. After opening the package, the meat will return to a pink (oxygenated) state.
For details and the science behind the issue:
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