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:
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?