Wild and Free, But Is Roadkill Safe to Eat?
by Amy Halloran | Apr 18, 2011
"Well, I'm the king of roadkill," laughed Paul Opel, a music instructor at Green Mountain College in Vermont. "I don't hunt at all but I love wild food so I'm always really happy to get it."
Opel has been discovering this kind of road food for over 30 years. The habit began when he was in his twenties and a pheasant collided with his car.
"Here's this completely fresh, healthy bird," he recalls thinking at the time, "and if it stays here it's just going to rot, and if it comes home with me it will be dinner."
Preparing that pheasant was the first time he'd ever dressed a bird. Over time, he's developed his own rules for taking roadkill. Winter, he thinks, is a good season because the animal is immediately refrigerated. During the summer he is warier of what he might take. Because he's not doing it for subsistence, he's liberal about what he rejects.
The practice of eating roadkill is part of a waste-not, want-not philosophy that drives other people, some of them previously vegans, to scavenge meat in a fashion that is almost sanctioned by PETA, which says on the subject:
"If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket."
People who eat roadkill might be hunters who know their way around a dead animal, or people who call themselves freegans, and are used to eating from unregulated sources, like Dumpsters. Some practitioners have written how-to guides, such as the zine quoted in Sandor Ellix Katz's book about America's underground food movements, "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved."
State by state rules vary on the legality of taking home roadkill. In many states, one can actually get on the local game warden's list and wait for a call.