What It Really Means When Roast Beef Loses Its Color

Deli meat has a mixed reputation. Some people their cold-cut sandwiches and subs, adding on as many toppings as humanly possible. But others like to steer clear of them altogether, suspicious of their freshness and overall healthiness. While the high sodium levels in cold cuts have caused some concern to health professionals (via EatingWell), they are still a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals in a pinch. Roast beef is a common deli meat that people love to pile high on their sandwiches like a savory French dip sandwich, dipping it in steamy au jus.

Roast beef and other cold cuts are the perfect proteins to always keep on hand in the fridge. It is comforting to know there will always be something to eat at home as long as you have meat, cheese, and bread. Who doesn't love a sandwich? No need to stop at the drive-thru this week. But anyone who eats their fair share of roast beef knows that sometimes the usually bright pink meat can appear brown or almost grey, which just doesn't seem right. This change is off-putting to some people, who wonder how such a drastic color change could happen.

Past their prime warning signs

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there is a perfect explanation for this seemingly strange color change. Beef not exposed to oxygen in airtight vacuum-sealed packaging is a burgundy color. Once exposed to air, the meat turns a bright pink or cherry color. The beef should stay this color for around five days in refrigeration, but after that, it will start to turn brown due to oxidation. While this change is par for the course, it is an indication of freshness. Any beef that has turned brown while in storage could have an off-odor or a tacky feeling, which are additional signs it spoiled.

It is important to be mindful of any spoiled cold cuts in your fridge, as they become breeding grounds for bacteria. Absolutely no one wants to experience a case of food poisoning. That is why it is vital to always avoid past-their-prime deli meats. Luckily, roast beef lets you know with the major visual cue of going from bright pink to a lackluster brown. It is hard to miss, that's for sure.