What Do All of the Dates on My Milk Mean?

milk cartons in dairy aisle

With so many dates listed on the milk carton (sell by, use by, best by, etc.), it’s no wonder many people are confused about whether their gallon of nutrient-rich milk is still fresh.

Not to worry; I’m here to help you decode the date dilemma.

Sell By

You can disregard this date, as it is for your grocer. This date is provided to the grocery store by the milk processor to ensure that they sell the milk at its peak, so you can enjoy its delicious taste. Milk is generally good up to a week after its “sell by” date.

Use By or Best By

This date is for you. This is the date provided by the milk processor that states when the milk should be enjoyed by. It’s important to remember this date is based on the assumption the milk has been stored appropriately, so if it has been left in a hot car while you were running errands after purchasing it or left out on the counter at home, the date may vary.

If you find yourself constantly throwing out milk because you haven’t been able to enjoy it before it goes bad, here are a few tips:

Perishable foods like milk are packed with nutrition and with these tips, you can maximize its taste and safety.

Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD


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