As mentioned, the dates on meat packages are just "best if sold by..." From what I've read, they were first introduced to help store managers maintain a regular stocking schedule. The only foods in the US that a required to have expiration dates are baby foods. Everything else is a recommendation.
As far as safety goes, read up some on how bacteria grows at different temperatures, just for your own peace of mind.
I'll offer a quick summary. Unless the animal in question has a muscle related disease, the meat at the time of slaughter is bacteria free. And in the US and other places, not infested w. parasites. But for the sake of safety, it is assumed that as the carcass is cut, it is exposed to various pathogens. For example, human's frequently carry a strain of staphylcoccus. Not hard to imagine a stray finger touch on the meat before its packaged.
Generally speaking, if the meat is cut and quickly frozen, all pathogens become dormant before their numbers can increase to dangerous levels, and/or produce various toxins. I did come across a micro photo once that showed filements of staph in meat that had been lost during an arctic expedition. They had continued to grow, albeit very slowly for decades. As far as I know, such growth is an exception.
Upon thawing, the charts I've seen indicate that pathogens have a brief period, an hour or so, before they begin multiplying. The rate of multiplication is dependent on temperature. Roughly, the growth rate doubles every 10F, to about 100F. At that point, it begins to slow, and in the mid 120s, pathogen numbers stop increasing. By 130, the heat is destroying them. By 165F, the die off is very rapid, and at 185, pretty much instantaneous.
Home refrigerators should be set to 40F or lower. That is the average in mine, but there is variance all over, with some spots being just above 32F, and a few at 44F. The rule of thumbs is that uncooked meats can be held for up to 7 days at that temp. Cooked foods are not as resistant to bacterial growth (the bugs like their food cooked, too), and only have about half the 'fridge life.
The older food safety guide line was that from slaughter to cooking, unfrozen meat could only be considered safe for 4 hours between 40F and 140F. Not a very good guide. I've come across a more recent one that said 2 hours tops for poultry at 90F.
The "smell" test is a good indicator, but it is not fail safe. The bacteria that produce the smell are not the same ones that produce the worst toxins. The odor just indicates that if there has been a good environment for toxin production.
Despite paying closer attention now to time and temperature, I still abide by the maxim, "When in doubt, throw it out." This goes for everything. Vegetables, which are often neither frozen, or cooked to high temperatures are just as likely to be dangerous as meat. Likewise grain products. Bacillus cereus can be fatal. Reheated rice, insufficiently cooled pasta salads, etc can easily cause really bad poisoning.
"Aw right you sprout 'pokes. There's a whole pack of coyotes headed for the melon patch. If'n you don't head 'em off, and they get to those lil cantaloups... Well, there'll be hell to pay. So get on yer hover rounds, and hit the trail. Now!"
I've come across a couple of old recipes that were really simple, and based on butter. I've tried fancier mixtures, but I did one recently that worked pretty well on ribs.
I just tossed it together, and didn't make any careful measurements. Here's what I put together, more or less.
3 Tbl. butter. Louisiana hot sauce, maybe 2 teaspoons Honey, about a tsp. Some fresh ground black pepper garlic granules mustard powder, maybe a tsp a dash of ginger to suit my own taste.
it all together. Could not get it to emulsify very well. Suppose a bit
less butter and a little more mustard might have helped that. Probably should have added a little more vinegar or some other acid.
it on the ribs about 5 minutes before serving. It was quite savory, and
picked up flavor from the rub, which was 50-50 mix of Dizzy Dust and Tasty Licks Ribit.