Would You Eat This?

Last winter, someone driving by my friend’s house in Alaska hit a moose. The car was totaled. The moose, dead, but in good shape. My friend and her family petitioned the local law enforcement to allow them to butcher the moose and eat it. They spent the next couple of days working hard at home processing the meat. No need to hunt that year.

In his book, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved (my review here), Sandor Ellix Katz spends a whole section of the chapter on foraging discussing the merits of roadkill. According to him, there’s a whole movement of people dedicated to eating nothing but roadkill. It’s a shame, they say, to let all that edible food just go to waste.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the image of it “going to waste.” Most roadkill I’ve seen looks totally unappetizing — bloated flesh, flies, nasty smells. Even just remembering such sights can make me shudder.

But what if the roadkill is fresh, looks no more marred than a deer killed by a bullet, and is kept from decomposing by freezing outdoor temperatures? That’s what chef Daniel Klein cooked up in his Christmas episode of The Perennial Plate. The Perennial Plate is my favorite five to ten minutes of internet television each week. In each episode, you get to watch as Daniel farms, hunts, and cooks his way through a year in Minnesota. It’s all about sustainable, local, and organic foods. I’ve seen him harvest wild rice with Native Americans, kill his own Thanksgiving turkey, and cook up scrumptious meals of 100% local ingredients. It’s right up any Food Renegade’s alley.

So, before you make up your mind about roadkill, watch this 10 minute episode where Daniel fails to see any deer on his fifth full day of hunting and resorts to Plan B:



From Sandor Katz’s book:

In American culture, eating roadkill generally has a pejorative classist connotation, epitomizing ignorant hillbilly behavior. Now Wildroots and other enthusiasts are embracing roadkill with a political ideology, rejecting the values of consumer culture by ‘transforming dishonored victims of the petroleum age into food which nourishes, and clothing which warms.’ Beyond ideology, they are spreading practical information and skills to empower people.

Indeed, the folks at Wildroots (and others like them) have made it their mission to teach people the primitive skills necessary to forage food well — including how to discern the edibility of roadkill.

So, what do you think? If you could eat fresh roadkill, would you?

For myself, I think I’d be adventurous enough to try it if someone else foraged it and prepared it. Translation: I’ve got no problem with the idea of eating roadkill. But, I’m not so sure I’m inspired enough to go find some roadkill, butcher it myself, and then turn it into meals.


(photo by barbarac)

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Comments

  1. Karen C. says

    Earlier this winter, 2 coworkers were out driving and the car in front of them hit and killed a pheasant. They went back and got it for me. It was dead but not bruised or mangled. I didn’t know how to clean it but 1 of the coworkers did and my family had it for dinner that night. I have no problem with it if it is done properly. Common sense not to eat anything rancid, etc.

  2. says

    My dad did this with a deer that was hit by a car and landed in our driveway right in front of his eyes. Driver of the car was ok but the deer was dead. Dad hauled the deer up to our jungle gym with his tractor and tada, we had venison for the rest of the year! It was quiet a site, since he was on his way to work and butchered the whole thing in his suit and tie… not sure what the neighbors thought!

  3. Melissa Moran via Facebook says

    this happens in maine all the time. My uncle is the chief of police in Waterville, Me, and he said when a moose/car accident is reported theres at least 4 people asking for the meat who listen to scanners for calls like that

  4. Lacy Tufton-Headlough via Facebook says

    They have a road kill program here in Alaska. I was just going to put our name on the list. They call you and you go pick it up. I think it’s a great idea since we eat moose all the time.

  5. Amy Page via Facebook says

    That would be wasting a life. I see a lot of deer on the side of the road, left to rot. Maybe the rawfeeders (canine) should contact police for a heads up. I think my relative use to do that.

  6. says

    Last year I was in Alaska in a rural town where every time a moose was hit (a very common accurance) the church we were at would get called out by the police. The men of the church would go out and get the moose and butcher it and share it with families in need plus the guys that helped butcher it would get to keep some as well. I ended up eating some of this road kill and let me tell you that it was the best meat I’ve ever had. It was rich, lean, and not gamy at all.

    • KristenM says

      Now THAT’s an amazing idea. I wonder how it would fly in other local communities? We get a lot of deer around here.

      • Brittany says

        My husband has a friend who lives in Indiana, and they have a program where you can take deer (he’s a hunter, but I wonder if it applies to fresh roadkill too) and they butcher it and give it to local food pantries to distribute. I thought it sounded pretty cool.

  7. Craig Fear via Facebook says

    this should be a part of more food banks. Imagine – free, healthy, unprocessed food for people who really need it.

  8. says

    Here in Indiana, we have no such need to placate the fascists. If you see something hit, you pick it up, throw it in the back and off you go. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to risk it, but most of the Bubbas hereabouts don’t need to guess. We call it “struck” meat. You have avoid the bruised parts, but the rest is fine.

  9. says

    i was raised in the country and processed many animals and deal;t with dead ones.. im a pretty good judge of what i’d deem safe to eat..and yes given the circumstances id be more than glad to get it.. fresh, free, untainted by hormones .. i love wild game.. never had moose but im sure id love it

  10. Pam Arndt via Facebook says

    We eat it all the time! That’s where all of our moose, save one, has come from. Last winter we were driving home from church when a snowshoe hare darted out in front of us. My dad quickly turned the wheel and managed to hit it in the head. We stopped and picked it up. It became hausenpfeffer.

  11. says

    I was hit by a flying deer just last week (came off someone’s bumper and killed the entire driver’s side of my car.) I wish I’d had the presence of mind (and physical strength) to get the deer home! I would absolutely have dragged out my Basic Country Skills book and bought a freezer! Now, the possums and raccoons we get most often around here? Probably not.

    • KristenM says

      Sorry to hear about your car. I also hesitate about the littler guys, but that’s mostly because they’re pancakes by the time I see them. I can’t imagine finding some that’s not completely destroyed by the car.

  12. says

    I drove back from Bozeman last weekend and saw 2 deer and an antelope road kill and something else, perhaps a raccoon. Unfortunately my freezer is already full. I felt rather guilty NOT picking them up, especially after reading Sandor Katz book…

  13. Alice Sun via Facebook says

    If you have a hunting license and you didn’t run your vehicle into the animal on purpose, i don’t see what the problem is in eating it. That’s a lot of meat gone to waste if you just leave it to rot. I suppose the buzzards would eat it.

  14. Stacy Lee via Facebook says

    Sure would. Husband hit one dead on and broke it’s neck just two weeks ago. He came home, gutted and hung it. It’s been in the freezer ever since, with the other six deer he got during the season.

  15. Denise Halyama via Facebook says

    Well, I’d be a nay sayer but only because I don’t enjoy the game taste of moose or deer. We just aren’t a hunting family so we don’t get that kind of meat often.

  16. Heather says

    When I lived up north I kept all sorts of hunting licenses for just such occasions. You never know when fabulous meat will fall into your hand, or hood as the case may be. As long as it is fresh, kept at a proper temperature and cleaned and butchered properly it is no different than hunting without all that work. It is a shame to ruin a perfectly good car, but why add to the loss by letting a perfectly good animal go to waste as well?

  17. Jessica says

    I would, and I have. One year, right before Christmas, my mom hit a deer, killing it, and totaling her truck. We had the deer processed, and filled the freezer. In fact, since all our Christmas spending money went to getting a new car, we even gave summer sausage as gifts to friends and family!

  18. says

    Yes, as long as it’s not summer and it was a fresh kill, it’s a shame that an animal die in vain when we can make sue of its life our nourish our bodies.

    I do wonder what the laws are, state by state, for this…

  19. Sonja says

    Someone once hit a deer right outside our house (I live in a small Ohio town). There it was, fresh meat. But we were leaving the country in couple of days, so we called the sheriffs office to pick it up. If not, eating it would definitely have been an option, there are plenty of deer processing businesses around here (we couldn’t do it ourselves).

  20. says

    Absolutely! Although I’d like to learn to hunt, I’m not sure if I have the patience and the focus to be very good at it. This would be an even better way to get the same high-quality meat. And I love Sandor’s book.

    I also LOVE the idea of butchering roadkill and sharing it with families in need. I can almost imagine a food-not-bombs offshoot group developing to do this work…vegan dumpster-divers and carnivorous roadkill harvesters working together to feed the community.

  21. Jennifer says

    I have actually considered it. Right around Thanksgiving the temps here dropped into the low teens, and suddenly there were several deer showing up on the sides of our road. Two out of the three that first week didn’t even look like they’d been hit. There was no outward evidence of it, at least. And perfectly preserved, thanks to the cold temps. If my husband wasn’t completely squeamish about raw meat, I probably would have made him help me bring at least one of them home (though I didn’t think to consult the local law enforcement about doing so). I’ve never self-processed meat before, though I watched my grandmother did it for years, every time my grandfather brought back deer from his hunting trips. I think I could probably do it. But given the weight, I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. So until I find an equally-interested friend, or my husband gets over his raw meat problem, I’ll have to leave it to others.

    • KristenM says

      I wonder if you could just take it to wherever the local deer processing facility is — you know, the one that local hunters take their game to. Do those places require appropriate tags before they’ll process the animal? If yes, that might put a hamper on your ability to get roadkill processed there unless you get the appropriate hunting permits for your area.

  22. Kelly says

    The roadkill list is long in Alaska, my beloved and missed state. I would definitely eat roadkill. Perfectly good meat right there. Now if I only knew how to butcher….

  23. Sarah says

    Here in Maine if you hit it, you get it! Last summer my husband’s aunt’s stepdaughter (seriously) hit a moose and totalled her truck. She called her dad, the tow truck helped put it in his truck, he drove to the waterfront and got ice dumped on it, then drove around until he found a butcher that day. We ate that moose for over a year! It was absolutely delicious. The best part was knowing it was 100% natural and probably never had a bad day in its life till it got hit!

  24. says

    The day before shotgun opened here in NY, I picked up a deer from an accident. I was on my way to work and saw a car with its flashers on. I pulled over and made sure the driver was ok. (She was.) I asked if she was interested in keeping the deer. She declined and said I could have it. After getting a road tag I loaded the doe into the trunk of my Jetta. My dad came and picked it up to be processed. :)

    I take pride in being a scavenger. :)

    • says

      Side note: I keep plastic bags and a hunting knife in my car for this exact purpose. If I hit a raccoon, or basically anything bigger than a rabbit… that sucker’s mine!

  25. Sandra McLaughlin says

    Of course we eat roadkill in Iowa. One must call the DNR when a deer is hit, but the meat processing lockers are in most towns and there is always someone who will pick it up and transport it as a favor! It would be such a waste to not use the wonderful meat that died tragically do to deer overpopulation and too many vehicles. All the men in my family butcher meat they kill, but I only preserve it, cook and eat it.

  26. says

    I would definately like to do it.
    But my major problem is: how would you know if the animal wasn’t diseased?
    This question caused me not to stop the three times I saw fresh, non-pancaked hare lying on the road (that, and the really bad weather or the unability to stop because a truck was right behind me…).

    On the other hand, a hunter wouldn’t know it the animal was healthy if he shoots one, either. And those animals are eaten most of the time, too, right?

    I think I will stop for a rabbit or hare next time. It is actually illegal here to take anything bigger though; a friend of mine faced charges after putting a deer out of it’s misery and eating it. Mostly because the forester was pissed off he didn’t take the deer himself.

    We will be moving from here soon… I am somewhat looking forward to butchering the fat chickens that are running around wild here. They once escaped someone’s chicken-house and have been running free eversince, but we cannot leave them behind… so in the pot they’ll go. It will be the first time I’ll kill an animal to eat it. Exciting… but that’s not roadkill and a whole different story ;-)

  27. says

    I think I share your view on eating roadkill: I like the idea of not letting it go to waste, and I would rather eat an animal that has lived its life naturally in the forest than one that’s been subsisting in a factory farm. But the thought of stopping on the roadside to pick up a dead animal while the two toddlers wait in the car, and then explaining it to my husband… well, it seems just short of crazy. Maybe someday…

  28. says

    I think, like you, that I have no problem with the idea of it but I don’t if I would go out looking for it (and I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t have any sort of accident that causes it.) But I LOVE that this couple did it. Awesome. :)

  29. says

    I am not a meat eater, but if I were, I don’t think I’d have a problem eating roadkill. At least it’s free range and not all jacked up on hormones. Don’t see anything wrong with it except maybe the transport of it.

  30. says

    This opportunity actually presented itself to my family last week. A friend on 40 acres found a deer who had been run down by dogs. We went out there and helped her haul the deer up to her barn, where the deer was dressed, skinned, and hung up for two weeks. We’ll go back next weekend to butcher her.

    This is an impossibly strange experience as I was a vegetarian less than two months ago. :) But if the meat is fresh and healthy, why not? Except that it’s illegal. That’s right! In our area it’s actually illegal to pick up roadkill because it’s considered poaching out of season. The government seems to believe that people will use their vehicles to “hunt” deer. That’s pretty ridiculous if you’ve ever seen the damage (and the danger) presented by hitting a deer with your car.

  31. says

    Seems like the only roadkill I ever see are squirrels, possums, or skunks. I guess you have to get out of the city a little farther to be hitting deer and moose. But I think it’s great if people can put it to good use.

  32. says

    Wow cool article! Christmas Eve we were headed home and hit a deer, local law enforcement actually had to ‘finish it off’ for us. We called a guy with a truck and now we have a freezer full of beautiful venison we never would have had other wise. It seemed like a waste to not use it.

  33. Barbara Grant says

    More than once has my husband come home after leaving for work here in northeast PA. with a deer in his vehicle. Some he hit( hence the blue car with a white fender), others he found still warm. Good meat is good meat!

  34. says

    I would be concerned about all the pollutants that might saturate the animal from the petrochemicals that are continually dumped on the roads, which contain many toxins, especially at ground level, where the roadkill is. I wonder if anybody has ever tested for this.

    Over here, the only roadkill we get are raccoons and possums full of fleas.

  35. says

    Do be careful eating stressed animals. A quick smack with the car and fast bleed-out is not a big deal, but if it is injured and flails around for a while, you might not want to eat it.

    A deer jumped through my parent’s house window a few years back, fell down the stairs into the basement. It rampaged around panicked (and with internal injuries) for an hour before they realized they’d have to shoot it to get it out (it nearly killed the DNR officer who tried to herd it out the window well). They had the deer butchered, but when I ate two bites of it, I started getting lightheaded…kinda buzzed…we assumed from all the stress hormones lingering in the meat. Also, it tasted rather like liver.

    But hey, if you can butcher it yourself, you’re not out much cost, and it would at least make great raw dog food!

    • KristenM says

      Excellent point! That’s one of the reasons I support the humane slaughtering of animals rather than the stressful, large-scale, production methods of slaughter. I hadn’t even thought to apply the standard to roadkill.

  36. Momma says

    For a long time I wondered why there were so many dead deer on the sides of our roads cause some of them looked (granted from a distance) relatively fresh. I honestly could not understand why someone hadn’t taken the meat. What a waste of excellent wild game! I finally read in the hunting guide that, unfortunately, it is against the law to possess a deer or any part of a deer that has been hit by a vehicle in the State of Texas. I do agree that it really is a shame. However, one possible reason that it is against the law might have to do with the fact that if certain bodily fluids (can’t remember which ones specifically, but think it may be intestines) come into contact with the meat, the meat where these fluids touch starts spoiling faster. Unless one picked up a deer, butchered it and examined it, there would not be any way to tell if the organs had contaminated the meat.

  37. says

    I would eat something that JUST got killed as long as it wasnt too damaged. Otherwise, I would leave it for the other critters. Because, truly, roadkill isnt ever really “wasted”. It helps to sustain other species. However, Im out on eating coons, oppossums, sqirrels, dogs, cats, and other little animals, as well.

  38. says

    It depends. I wouldn’t waste it. But I like meat properly bled out – this makes a big difference in terms of taste, quality and storability. I also would not want it ground into the gravel, guts ground into the meat, etc – that is how E. Coli and such are getting into the food supply.

    However, portions that I don’t eat (whole or fractional) are good food for our pack of livestock guardian dogs. They eat a lot and they eat meat, including guts and organs I won’t want. A dogs gotta eat and they work hard. We have so many dogs because they protect our livestock and managed the local small pest and predator population. Coyote is considered a treat.

    After us and the dogs comes the chickens. Meat replaces their summer diet of mice, snakes and insects. As such we rarely buy commercial chicken feed and are still able to maintain our layers over the winter using the scraps from our weekly slaughtering. Road kill would be the same to them, or better. We have so many chickens because they organically manage flies and other pests.

    After us, the dogs and the chickens comes the compost pile. Nothing is wasted. All returns to the soil. Meat and the gut are an excellent ingredient in making rich soil. We have poor acid leached (thank you Mid-West factories) soils here in Vermont but by making compost we have excellent gardens. I make hundreds of cubic-yards of compost a year for our farmstead and it grows the most amazing pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and other good foods.

    Nobody gets wasted.

  39. says

    A few years ago someone rang my doorbell about an injured deer down by the road on my property. I called the police who came over to put it out of its misery. Actually it died seconds before they arrived.

    I was about to head to work, plus I really didn’t have the tools for butchering it myself, so I told him to tell his buddies to come back and take it, it was fresh. You could tell he was thinking about it when he left. When I got home it was gone. (He’d told me that the actual road crew that picks up dead carcasses for disposal wouln’t have gotten to it that day.) So I am assuming someone got to enjoy that deer.

    Yes, if the intestines were ruptured, there’d be parts of the meat one wouldn’t want, but there would be other useable parts.

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