Ground Beef Turned White: What’s Wrong With It?

Ground Beef Turned White
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Ground Beef Turned White

Ground beef is so versatile. You can use it to make anything from shepherd’s pie to meatballs or burger patties.

It is a staple in most homes because of its convenience and relatively low cost compared to other types of meat. Minced beef can be stored in the freezer for quick defrosting for a weeknight family supper.

What happens when your ground beef develops a white color, though? Does this means it has spoiled and should be thrown out.?

Well, that depends. Before you do anything drastic, read our article to learn what may be causing the color change.

Ground Beef Turned White

Raw minced meat in bowl on wooden table and ingredients
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Ground beef is notorious for going bad quicker than steak or other whole pieces of beef. This is because grinding the meat exposes a greater surface area to the air.

The oxygen in the air provides a means of survival for the tiny bacteria that cause spoilage and food poisoning.

Because there are thousands of tiny air pockets throughout the pack of minced beef, this provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Remember that with food, spoilage and contamination are different things, and their impact on food is different.


Food safety expert inspecting red meat
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Contamination results when unwanted substances get into food. These may be bacteria, dirt, or chemicals. Contamination can result in food poisoning and is sometimes caused by E. coli or salmonella bacteria.

The most common property of contaminated food is that it doesn’t show any signs of being harmful or spoiled. There are no off smells, discoloration, or textural changes.


Food spoilage is the umbrella term for different signs of food being old that tend to communicate with your senses of touch, sight, and smell. Spoilage is also a result of bacteria, but it is unlikely to cause any sickness.

This is because the majority of people obey their senses and don’t eat food like ground meat that has a slimy texture or is off-taste.

What is causing my ground beef to be white?

1. While the white color could be a result of spoilage, it could also be caused by freezer burn.

To check which it is, take a small bit of the minced meat and fry it in a pan on high heat. If it smells strange (usually sour), it is spoiled and should be thrown away.

2. To check for freezer burn, look closely at the white bits. If they are covered in tiny ice crystals, the white parts are probably dehydrated meat caused by freezer burn.

The meat will still be safe to eat, although there may be some taste and textural changes. This happens when meat is frozen without being packaged properly. The meat comes into contact with the cold air and becomes dehydrated.

To prevent freezer burn, always ensure your ground beef is well wrapped in freezer-proof plastic or stored in Ziploc bags with the air pressed out.

3. Another potential reason for your ground beef turning white is your defrosting technique. If you defrost it using too high a temperature, the outside parts of the meat package will, in effect, cook.

If you defrost meat in the microwave, be sure to use the lowest setting and turn it regularly to ensure no hot spots form. If you defrost your ground beef in water, always use cold water, never hot.

While whiteness caused by poor defrosting methods is unsightly, it is not harmful and the meat can still be eaten.

The Signs of Spoiled Ground Beef

Of course, you will want to know a little more detail about how to tell if the white color on your ground beef is caused by spoilage. As when checking any food, use your senses of sight and smell to test.

The visible signs of spoilage depend on its severity. For instance, if the ground beef is slimy, bacterial cells have started to build up and the meat should be discarded.

As far as the color is concerned, ground beef that has spoiled will lose its ruby redness and turn a flat grey or whitish shade. Please don’t risk your or your family’s health by eating this spoiled beef.

pork and beef
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Rather dispose of it safely and start again with a fresh batch.

If the ground beef has an off or funky smell, it must be thrown out. You may only notice this off smell when you start to cook it. The smell is caused by gases released by the bacteria.

How to Keep Ground Beef Fresh and Ruby Red

Meat is pricey these days and nobody likes to waste any. To ensure your ground beef doesn’t turn white again, here are a few tips for keeping it fresh.

  • Check the sell-by date before purchasing it in the supermarket. If the beef is unfrozen, it should be bought and used within a day or two of processing. Only purchase ground beef that is a bright, juicy red color. Do not buy it if it looks grey or brownish.
  • After purchase, put the meat into a cooler when transporting it home. Once you arrive home, put it directly into the fridge or freezer. If you’re going to use it within a day or two, the fridge is fine. However, if you want to store it for longer, it must be frozen.
  • If you want to divide a large batch of ground beef into individual serving sizes, always ensure that your work surface and hands are clean before handling the meat. This will prevent bacterial contamination.

minced pork and beef in the freezer in serving bags for long storage
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In Conclusion

Ground beef turns white for a variety of reasons. Some of these may show that the meat is off and should be thrown away, while others merely indicate problems like freezer burn or incorrect defrosting.

We hope this helps you with your white ground beef issue. Eat safe and stay healthy!

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