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Eating Roadkill

When passing the unfortunate, and all too common, casualties of the road (often referred to as “roadkill”), motorists are far more inclined to meet the sight with an utterance of disgust and a wince than a look of favorable opportunity. The fact is, approximately 250,000 wild animals are killed by automobiles in the United States every day, and the more rural the area; the more dead animals wind up prostrate on the side of the road. However, some people don’t just see a crimson smear along the black top, they see opportunity in these unfortunate victims and make it a habit to retrieve roadkill up off the road to take home and eat.

As long as there have been cars, resourceful people have been making the most of a bad situation and eating roadkill (even celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been known to enthusiastically enjoy some fresh fox, hedgehog and badger that met an untimely death). Roadkill, despite its messy demise, is often a healthy and highly economic food source. Even PETA, the animal rights group gives the practice of salvaging roadkill a circumstantial approval, “If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket.” Some roadkill advocates attest it is a good way to get fresh, wild, totally free-range and organic meat for absolutely free. I have even met some vegans (yes, vegans) who will, on occasion, consume a bit of roadkill, on account that the death was incidental, and not a product of hunting, factory farming or blood lust (one could obviously find some holes in this rationale).

But as you could imagine, there are a few essential rules of thumb to follow when salvaging road kill. First off, laws vary from state to state what is acceptable to salvage and what isn’t. In some states a permit is required to legally remove any animal from the road. You will want to make sure the animal is relatively fresh (no more than three days in the cold of winter, and only a few hours during the peak of the summer) and free of disease (this can sometimes be difficult to ascertain – if you are not sure, leave the animal behind) or infection. And if the animal is injured, but not yet dead, you will have to safely and humanely dispatch the animal (this is when an armed police officer comes in handy). And as a general rule, if it smells like rotting flesh, it is likely past its prime and not worth salvaging.

Here is a fantastic video from Perennial Palate on the subject of harvesting roadkill:

The Perennial Plate Episode 40: Road Kill (Deer in the woods, Deer in the road) from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

No doubt, most readers will balk (or gag) at the idea of eating roadkill. Some may even look at it as a supremely low-class act of desperation. But still others may find the practice to be something of inspiration, practiced by those whom are willing to turn calamity into good fortune. What side of the road do you stand on when it comes to roadkill? Too gross to consider, or too good to pass up?

Read more: Environment, Following Food, Food, Nature & Wildlife, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

150 comments

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3:10PM PDT on May 22, 2011

I'm a vegetarian so I don't consume meat, but if people can do this safely and use it as an alternative to hunting I see the upside. Of course I would much prefer to see safer means for the animals to cross busy highways which have been done in some places, by building fences along the highways and small underpasses under the road to allow animals to travel freely and safely.

8:47AM PDT on May 17, 2011

I am a little concerned about road kill and would not really touch it. If I hit that dear or in our country kangaroo, what would I do with such a big animal. One would need a huge freezer and be a competent butcher, which I am not. I did hit a big 6 foot kangaroo some years ago, it actually destroyed my car. The A pillar was totally bent, the roof buckled, the windscreen was totally smashed. Of cause the roo was really hurt and dying, my friend an I approached it and we stayed with it for 1-2 hours comforting it and it reached out for us, trying to get our attention, why, it had a Joe in her pouch. When she died the little one came out of the pouch to our surprise, after all we did not even know in the dark, female or male, never gave it any thought. The mother died Joe survived, would I ever eat road kill, it is a big NO. Nowerdays we have ABS, ESP and other aids to save not our lives but also animals. If we would have had that in 1968 joe would have grown up with his mum, and I would not have felt the guilt to this day.

8:44AM PDT on May 17, 2011

I am a little concerned about road kill and would not really touch it. If I hit that dear or in our country kangaroo, what would I do with such a big animal. One would need a huge freezer and be a competent butcher, which I am not. I did hit a big 6 foot kangaroo some years ago, it actually destroyed my car. The A pillar was totally bent, the roof buckled, the windscreen was totally smashed. Of cause the roo was really hurt and dying, my friend an I approached it and we stayed with it for 1-2 hours comforting it and it reached out for us, trying to get our attention, why, it had a Joe in her pouch. When she died the little one came out of the pouch to our surprise, after all we did not even know in the dark, female or male, never gave it any thought. The mother died Joe survived, would I ever eat road kill, it is a big NO. Nowerdays we have ABS, ESP and other aids to save not our lives but also animals. If we would have had that in 1968 joe would have grown up with his mum, and I would not have felt the guilt to this day.

8:22AM PDT on May 14, 2011

Thanks. I do not eat meat, but I agree with PETA.

7:33PM PDT on May 11, 2011

Wow.
O.O

If there's someone who actually cooks roadkill well, then I wouldn't be afraid to try it.

But until that chef starts existing, I'll pass :D

10:49PM PDT on May 10, 2011

thanks for sharing.

7:48PM PDT on May 10, 2011

Interesting!

5:07PM PDT on May 10, 2011

Thanks for sharing.

9:22AM PDT on May 10, 2011

This is DISGUSTING!! I am all about animal rights and humanely raised, organic meat but COME ON!! This is seriously dangerous and there are much better ways to help animals and spread the word.

3:12AM PDT on May 10, 2011

Dear might be ok if they can be bled. I am not about to eat a critter that is not either a ruminant or a Biblically clean bird or a fish with both fins and scales, regardless of how it died.

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people are talking

I don't take supplements. I eat food.

Thanks for sharing

Good information, thank you!

Not silly at all. It's lovely.

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