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Roadkill Cuisine Perks and Pitfalls

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by J.Adderton J.Adderton, MSN (Member) Writer Verified

J.Adderton has 20 years experience as a MSN .

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I recently read a news article on the California bill supporting the legalization of roadkill harvesting. Curiosity took over and I wanted to understand "how and why" this bill was a progressive step forward. This article shares what I discovered about the perks and pitfalls of roadkill cuisine.

Roadkill Cuisine Perks and Pitfalls

I have never seriously considered “roadkill” as a legitimate food source. Typically, I associated roadkill with the punchline of a very corny joke. Recently, I read an article highlighting California bill that would legalize the collection of carrion (aka roadkill).  My interest was definitely peaked after learning 27 U.S. states have already legalized the collection of roadkill for human consumption. I image there are individuals reading this article that are true roadkill aficionados.  However, I had to research, read up and educate myself on carrion cuisine. If you are interested in what I learned, keep reading.

But Why?

The first question I needed to answer was “Why”.  Some readers may know the answer to this question, but I was surprised to find real benefits for this controversial practice.

Safer Roadways

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), between 1 and 2 million large animals are struck by vehicles in the U.S. yearly.  These accidents kill approximately 200 people annually and cause nearly 8.4 billion dollars in damages. Many states are allowing the collection of carcasses to reduce the number vehicle-animal accidents and injuries.

Feeding Those in Need

In California alone, an estimated 20,000 deer, elk and wild pig are killed each year on roads.  The proposed bill states this amount “translates into hundreds of thousands of pounds of healthy meat that could be utilized to feed those in need.” Roadkill meat is a valuable free-range source of organic protein.

In Alaska, all roadkill belongs to the state.  State troopers will collect the hit animal, take it to volunteers for processing and distribute the meat to local charities.  Residents in many states can actually get on a waiting list to be called by the game warden when roadkill meat is available.

Data Points

Salvaging laws vary by state and often includes reporting requirements to assist in the collection of important data.  The information is used to determine migration patterns and feeding areas. Identifying dangerous stretches of road protects animals, people and vehicles.  Idaho has used data collected to build fences, post warning signs, build wildlife overpasses and under-tunnels to protect elk, deer and other animals.

Roadkill is also used to collect data and study Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer, moose and elk.  This contagious neurological disease causes brain degeneration, weight loss, abnormal behavior and eventually death in infected animals.  Animals with CWD have a higher risk of being involved in road accidents that cause animal and human injury or death.

And the Opinion of Animal Rights Groups?

Roadkill on the menu is gaining acceptance and animal rights groups generally approve.  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ website states, “If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket “.  Hunters have a long history of supporting the salvage of roadkill but maintain a “use the whole animal” ethical viewpoint. In addition to providing organic protein, salvaged roadkill provides a way to humanely collect fur and pelt.

The Legal Aspects

It is important to know your state’s laws regarding the collection of roadkill. Requirements widely vary, with some states requiring returning the head and antlers to game wardens. Many states also require permits or registration in order to collect roadkill.

An Absolute “No-Go”

There is no federal regulation for the private consumption of roadkill. However, before harvesting, there are “red flags” that indicate the meat is past the point of a safe meal. These include:

  • A large amount of blood at the scene may indicate ruptured organs
  • Fat or bloating appearance
  • Hair comes out easily when slightly tugged
  • Dark and/or dried blood
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Limb stiffness
  • Pinched skin that does not move freely over muscle
  • Hot, humid weather leads to rapid decomposition
  • Bad odor is never a good sign
  • Animal not groomed may be a sign of disease
  • Presence of flies
  • Absence of fleas (when body cools, fleas will seek a warmer environment)

Green Light Indicators

When harvesting roadkill, it is impossible to determine if the animal is illness and disease free. However, the following are indicators of a healthy and viable source of meat

  • Cold or freezing weather is ideal and slows the decomposition process
  • Shiny eyes without drainage/discharge
  • Warm body
  • Bright red blood
  • Look for pinched skin that moves freely over muscle
  • Fleas are positive sign since attracted to body warmth.  
  • Low blood loss and few signs of trauma

Foodborne Illness and Health Concerns

The health risks to roadkill are similar to foodborne illness associated with hunting and eating wild game.  These include toxoplasmosis, CWD, gondil and other species-specific diseases. It is estimated people consume between 7,000 and 15,000 deer yearly infected with CWD.  According to the Center for Disease Control, there are no known cases of transmission to humans. However, research continues to determine whether or not CWD poses a health risk. E. Coli has been found in the remains of elk, deer and moose.  Bacterial contamination is also a risk due to gut, intestine or bladder rupture.

Do Benefits Outweigh Risks?

What are your thoughts on the “waste-not, want-not” philosophy of roadkill?  Does knowing one large animal could yield 60-70 pounds of edible meat sway your opinion? Or, does your concern for the health and safety of your community conjure up the image of a big red “X” signaling a hard stop?

CDC Chronic Wasting Disease

You Can Harvest Roadkill for Food if You Live in One of These 27 States

Wild and Free, But is Roadkill Safe to Eat

Forget burgers, Roadkill could soon be on the menu in California (article)

I am a nurse with over 20 years nursing experience in a variety of positions and settings. I enjoy writing about what I encounter in my own nursing practices. I have been told my whole life that I "march to the beat of my own drum" and my writing supports this observation. Visit my Allnurses.com blog to read more of my articles.

7 Followers; 54 Articles; 27,235 Visitors; 263 Posts

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

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I live in an area where the roads use up a lot of animals. Unfortunately they are mostly cats, dogs, deer, and lots and lots of skunks. I'm not sure that I'd want to eat roadkill deer (and the others are unthinkable). Interesting points, thank you for writing. 🙂

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Police where I grew up had a call list for deer and other largish animals--when people called in to say they'd been in an accident with a critter, or to report an injured/dead deer/bear/whatever, the police would call the next person on the call list to go to the site.  This meant the meat was harvested in a time period about equal to that of a hunter dragging his or her kill out of the woods.

I grew up in a very poor area.  The meat collected in this way kept protein in the diets of many of my classmates.

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J.Adderton has 20 years experience as a MSN.

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30 minutes ago, Thoenix said:

Police where I grew up had a call list for deer and other largish animals--when people called in to say they'd been in an accident with a critter, or to report an injured/dead deer/bear/whatever, the police would call the next person on the call list to go to the site.  This meant the meat was harvested in a time period about equal to that of a hunter dragging his or her kill out of the woods.

I grew up in a very poor area.  The meat collected in this way kept protein in the diets of many of my classmates.

Thanks for sharing your experience.  So interesting

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1 minute ago, J.Adderton said:

Thanks for sharing your experience.  So interesting

It's so normal where I grew up.  Very north, very rural, very poor.  We don't think twice about it at all.  I've probably eaten roadkill meat, though I didn't know it at the time.  My family hunted in the fall for our winter meat and had deals with farmers for the summers, so we never needed to be on the call list.

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klone has 13 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Women's Health/OB Leadership.

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5 hours ago, J.Adderton said:
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Many states are allowing the collection of carcasses to reduce the number vehicle-animal accidents and injuries.

 

How would the collection of carcasses reduce the number of vehicle-animal accidents?

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TriciaJ has 37 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

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12 minutes ago, klone said:

How would the collection of carcasses reduce the number of vehicle-animal accidents?

I was thinking if a large carcass was left on the road any length of time, it could cause a second accident.

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J.Adderton has 20 years experience as a MSN.

7 Followers; 54 Articles; 27,235 Visitors; 263 Posts

4 minutes ago, TriciaJ said:

I was thinking if a large carcass was left on the road any length of time, it could cause a second accident.

Yes, the risk of motor vehicle accident increases when people try to avoid hitting dead animal. 

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2,864 Visitors; 519 Posts

Ewwww 🤐

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dream'n has 25 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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I hope the charities in Alaska are told that they're getting roadkill.  I don't get why California needs a law about it?  People that want it can just cruise the highways, unless they're talking about selling it at restaurants or something....

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VivaLasViejas has 20 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

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4 hours ago, dream'n said:

I hope the charities in Alaska are told that they're getting roadkill.  I don't get why California needs a law about it?  People that want it can just cruise the highways, unless they're talking about selling it at restaurants or something....

California "needs" laws for absolutely everything.

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KCMnurse has 33 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN.

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Fascinating topic.

I watched a documentary some time back about a guy who collected all kinds of road kill to eat. He had a barbecue at his house and invited his friends over to eat.  They were unaware of what they were eating, most thought the meat had an 'interesting' flavor!

I have the luxury of being able to turn up my nose to this, but I can see that this is a valuable source of protein for many that cannot afford to buy the "neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket ."

 

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