A date stamped on a product’s package, known as “open dating,” uses a calendar date to help the supermarket operator determine how long to display perishable foods, such as turkey and other proteins.

There are several types of dates that might be found on turkey packaging:

  • A “Sell by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. Consumers should buy the product before the date expires. 
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not
    a purchase or food safety date. 
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

For a consumer to ensure that turkey and turkey products retain top quality, the following tips should be considered:

If product has a “Use-By Date,” follow that.

  1. Check the “Sell-By Date” and purchase the turkey products before the date expires.
  2. Take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly under 40F. Place turkey in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which could be either the meat/poultry drawer or the bottom shelf. Leave products in store packaging prior to use.
  3. If there isn’t a meat/poultry drawer place a plate/tray under the turkey to prevent drips on other foods. Keep raw turkey separate from cooked foods.
  4. Follow handling recommendations on product.
  5. Freeze it at 0F., if you can’t use it in the times recommended (see chart below). Once a perishable product is frozen the expiration date become irrelevant and you should follow the storage guidelines below.
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Refrigerate fresh, uncooked and processed turkey products at 40F or below.

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If product has a “Sell-By Date” or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times in the following chart.


Turkey (Whole)1 or 2 days1 year
Turkey Breast1 or 2 days6 to 9 months
Turkey Parts – Steaks, Cutlets, Tenderloins, wings, drumsticks and thighs1 or 2 days3 months
Turkey Sausage1 or 2 days1 to 2 months
Turkey Bacon2 weeks5 to 7 days1 month (unopened package)
Ground Turkey1 or 2 days1 to 2 months
Cooked Poultry (no gravy or sauce)1 or 2 days1 to 2 days3 to 4 months
Cooked Turkey with gravy or sauce1 to 2 days6 months
Sliced Deli Turkey Breast1 or 2 days3 to 5 days1 month


Sources: National Turkey Federation; USDA