Would you ever eat roadkill meat? This is a question I never really seriously considered until 16 years ago when a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to help butcher a fresh roadkill deer. I eagerly said “Yes!” It was a fascinating learning experience and I was amazed at how much venison was salvaged from the roadkill deer.
Fast forward to last week when a whitetail doe was hit and killed on the road in front of our house. We salvaged what we could and now have a stack of packages of “roadkill deer” burger in our freezer to feed our family- for FREE!
Some people, including my mom, are grossed out by the idea of eating roadkill animals. Yes it is gross if you think of the stinky, rotting carcass on the side of the road or the one plastered across four lanes of highway. That is not the type of roadkill meat we are salvaging and eating!
I remember as a kid we would joke about serving each other “roadkill stew” when we saw a roadkill animal along the road. Little did I know that as an adult, salvaging and eating roadkill meat would be a skill I would acquire- and be proud of!
Why would we choose to eat roadkill animals?
My main reason for eating roadkill meat is to salvage the meat so it does not go to waste rotting on the side of the road or sent to the landfill by the highway clean up crew.
It is also a free source of meat that some would even consider the ultimate “free range organic” meat. In our area, most roadkill are deer. But there are also instances of roadkill elk and moose which would provide quite a bit of food for a family to eat when salvaging the roadkill.
5 tips for safely eating and salvaging roadkill meat
1. Is it fresh? Freshness can vary according to the season. In the heat of the summer, a roadkill animal can quickly spoil in a few hours. In the middle of our cold winter, my rule of thumb is less than 24 hours dead. This can be difficult to gauge how fresh it is. If it is a road we drive often, we can ask around and see if anyone can help give some insights into when the deer may have been hit. With the deer that was recently hit in front of our house, we were able to narrow down the time frame it was hit to a four hour window by talking to our neighbor.
2. Is it legal? In the State of Montana it is legal to harvest roadkill with a free online permit found on the State website. Laws vary according to state, some states don’t even require permits so check your state regulations.
3. Is it salvageable? You can tell by a quick look whether or not roadkill can be salvaged. If it is a small animal, like a rabbit, that was run over by a car then likely it will be too damaged to salvage. Larger animals like deer, elk, antelope or moose are more often found fairly intact with salvageable meat. That is, unless it was hit by a semi truck or run over by several vehicles on a highway. In that case sometimes you can’t even tell what the animal originally was because of the carnage.
4. Is the meat bruised? Once you start field dressing and skinning the roadkill animal, you will be able to see where there was trauma and potential bruised meat. Due to the high impact, bones can be shattered with small bone fragments found in the area of the broken bone. When butchering a roadkill animal, I err on the side of caution and cut off any obviously bruised meat. We cut around and remove the area covered in bone fragments. The meat that we keep to eat looks fresh, clean and healthy.
5. What do you do with the remaining carcass? In Montana when salvaging a roadkill with a permit, you are required to legally dispose of the carcass. We placed the remains in the middle of our meadow for the coyotes, skunks, eagles, magpies and other scavengers to feast on so every aspect of the deer is being used.
Eating fresh roadkill meat is not gross. It is an excellent way to salvage “wild, free-range organic meat” for free.
Have you ever eaten roadkill? Share your tips and stories in the comments below!