Forget that date on the meat you bought last week; if it looks good and smells good, you can probably just eat it. Expiration dates are just about meaningless, argues Nadia Arumugam on Slate, because food’s deterioration has a lot more to do with how it’s stored than for how long. Manufacturers tend to date their products assuming the laziest, dumbest possible consumers are buying them, according to one food scientist.
If you refrigerate your meat and milk right away, it can last three to seven days longer than advertised. It’s hard to say for sure though, because there’s no uniformity or accuracy in the dates, which are utterly unregulated in all but a few states. So above all, trust your eyes and nose. If it looks good it probably is, and if not, spoilage bacteria is virtually harmless anyway—those dates are all about taste. (Read more food stories.)