How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad

You may be asking yourself some questions about that ground turkey you bought at the store because everyone says it’s a healthier option or great for that new diet. Now that you’ve bought it, it’s been sitting in your fridge for a few days, and you’re worried about its freshness.

Ground turkey has gone bad if you have foul or extra gamey aromas or sulfur scents such as an off egg smell, even a rancid smell like vinegar can mean the turkey is bad. The color of bad ground turkey is grey, and it can sometimes have slightly purple hues with a slimy, sticky texture. 

As much as ground turkey is a healthy alternative to red meat for heart wellness and weight loss, it’s important to know when it’s gone bad. Like any other poultry, turkey can spoil very quickly, and knowing the telltale signs is important to prevent getting sick on turkey.

How To Tell If Ground Turkey Is Bad?

Knowing how to differentiate between spoiled or good ground turkey is important for your health. There is nothing worse than getting food poisoning from meat that has spoiled.

Turkey can quickly turn bad if left at room temperature for more than two hours in temperatures of 40° F, and since pathogens and bacteria don’t give off any smell until it’s really bad, it’s important to know different ways to test for freshness.

When checking the quality of your ground turkey, it is important to look at three factors before tasting it, smell, look and feel.

What Does Bad Ground Turkey Smell Like?

Ground turkey, when fresh, does not have any particular smell. That’s why smelling it is generally your first sign of freshness.

 You may find a sour smell wafting out from your ground turkey when the turkey has become bad. Other descriptions of the smell have been described as extra-gamey smell, sulfur smell, vinegar or ammonia smell, and rotten-egg smell.

This smell is caused by pathogens and bacteria such as E.Coli, salmonella, and staph that have multiplied and fermented on the meat.

Once your turkey starts giving off funky odors, it’s best to discard the meat to avoid cross-contamination with utensils and counter surfaces.

What Does Bad Ground Turkey Look Like?

Ground turkey, when fresh, is white with a light blush pink color to the meat, but as the meat gets older, it will gradually start to discolor. 

If the ground turkey has gone bad, the meat will become a  grey color right through and have a dull appearance, sometimes even starting to turn a hue of purple.

What Does Bad Ground Turkey Feel Like?

Paying attention to your meat when you slip it out of its package and into the pan can help you determine the texture of the ground turkey without even feeling it.

Any ground meat will be slightly sticky, especially when you start to handle it, as the heat from your hands heats the fat in the meat and starts sticking to your hands.

But if your meat has a slimy, sticky consistency that feels wet and gooey, then it’s probably time to send it packing.

Also, when you slip your meat from the package to the pan, it should definitely not slip out of its package. This is a sign that it is probably slimy, hence the slipping.  

What Does Bad Ground Turkey Taste Like?

Hopefully, you never get to this stage of tasting what bad turkey tastes like, but with the odd chance that you are unfortunate to be served bad turkey or somehow missed all the other indicators, here is what bad ground turkey tastes like.

You may get a bit of a slimy texture to it and a strong rancid taste or a sour taste. If ever you get that taste, the likelihood is that your turkey has passed its freshness date, and you should immediately stop eating it.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Ground Turkey?

Eating bad ground turkey can make you very sick due to the bacteria and pathogens, such as E.coli and salmonella. Yes, even though it was cooked.

Symptoms of food poisoning can take a few hours to manifest, but you should have noticed some symptoms within a day of eating bad ground turkey.

Certain symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore muscles

What Should You Do If You Eat Bad Ground Turkey?

Food poisoning can be treated at home, and you will most likely recover without seeing a doctor. 

Due to diarrhea and vomiting, you will have lost a lot of liquids which will cause dehydration. Make sure to drink enough water to replenish the lost liquids.

Take time to rest and recover properly from this debilitating condition, as it will drain you of your energy and leave you fairly weak.

Once nausea subsides and you feel up to having some food, stick to bland foods such as toast, crackers, rice, or bananas. Drink black tea, and try avoiding anything creamy or dairies like milk and cheese, as those can make you sick again if your stomach is not strong enough to process the contents.

Drinking caffeine, fizzy drinks, alcohol, and spicy or oily foods can make you feel worse and will only worsen the vomiting and nausea.

Should you not feel better in a few days or the symptoms worsen, then you should contact your doctor for further investigation.

How Does Ground Turkey Get Contaminated?

As with any other food, the ground turkey will get contaminated if certain guidelines are not adhered to when handling food.

  1. Not thoroughly cooking ground turkey can leave traces of active salmonella.
  2. Not correctly storing the turkey at the correct temperatures or leaving it outside the fridge at room temperatures for more than two hours.
  3. When you leave ground turkey for more than two days in the fridge before cooking it.
  4. Using food that has an outdated use-by date.
  5. A family member in your home has a stomach bug and touches the turkey, utensils, or surfaces in the kitchen.
  6. Washing the turkey can splash the juices onto surfaces, utensils, or other foods that will cross-contaminate.


Turkey, in general, has very little smell when it is fresh, so using your four senses to determine whether your ground turkey is bad or not should be a fairly easy task. Make sure it smells fresh, with a pale pink color, and it feels firm, dry, and smooth before doing the tasting test will save you a few days of feeling sick with your only commute being from couch to toilet.