Would you eat roadkill?

One of my Michigan relatives once told me in hushed tones a story at a potluck. Year earlier on a drive back from a fishing trip, a car driving in front of them accidentally hit a deer. They stopped and her father made sure no one was injured and reassured the shaken driver that nothing could be done. They dragged the young deer to the side of the road and both families left the scene. Inside both cars, apparently the same conversation erupted. “Should we go back and get the deer?” With visions of a venison-filled freezer, her father decided to double back — only to find the driver who hit the deer strapping it to the hood of their station wagon. Caught, the other man shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. He double checked the bungee cords before getting back into the car to drive away.

A story in Slate reminded me of this situation. After a brief debate, the author and her husband debate retrieve a particularly nice looking (and presumably tasty) specimen of a rabbit on the road. As their debut experience with roadkill, they rely on YouTube videos and internet-based information on how to bleed, skin and prepare their find for consumption.

It’s an intriguing essay. I don’t know that I would ever pick up roadkill, especially if I didn’t know exactly when it had been hit or if Mike were in the car; he can barely muster a visit to a French butcher. I doubt that I’d ever venture in the restaurant of a chef certified to cook and serve roadkill. But, the larger story is that so few us consider where our food comes from anymore. My mother used to kill chickens when we lived on a farm in Michigan, and every year, my mother shot a deer. I can remember big bucks hanging from the stout end pole of the clothesline.

So while many who read the story may recoil, it makes one wonder. Perhaps more of us should participate in the slaughter of the meat we consume, if only to know what it truly means to be a carnivore?



Filed under budget cooking, food news, food politics, food writing

5 responses to “Would you eat roadkill?

  1. Thanks for another great blog post, Kathleen. It reminds me of an incident from my youth. I was living with a contractor in rural Connecticut who returned with deer steaks one afternoon. It seems he witnessed an accident where a car hit a deer and a State trooper had to deliver the coup de gras on the deer with his service revolver. My landlord and the guy driving the tow truck argued over the carcass, and my landlord won. He took the deer to a friend’s restaurant where they butchered it. I recall the venison steaks tasted fine but am not sure I would be so bold today.

  2. Kathleen Flinn

    hey Tom, that reminds me of another story. Years ago as a reporter, I went to a fundraiser for the sheriff of Manatee County and they called it the “roadkill cookout.” I still have the apron from it. Interestingly, several of the deputies commented that they had dispatched deer suffering on the side of the road. The conversation led to a strenuous debate about the ethics of taking the deer home afterward.

  3. matt thomas

    Hey Kathleen,
    Where I live roadkill is pretty common, and thus, so is roadkill consumption.
    One of the best roasted venison joints i’ve ever eaten came from a deer that a friend found wounded and had to kill. I recently hit a pheasant that went into the pot. I admit I’ve not much stomach for killing – I’ve dispatched my own hens, and I’m not very good at it. However, I think an awareness of what meat is and where it comes from and how it gets to your table is essential if you’re going to eat it. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a lot to say on the subject – an entire book devoted to meat.

  4. Great blog post Kathleen. It reminds me of the time I asked my uncle what they ate during the 1930s when he was groing up, and he said, “Dad shot lots of squirrels and roasted they aren’t half bad. We even ate a few we killed on the road.” I stopped being a food snob for a minute and wondered how squirrel might taste.

  5. Kathleen Flinn

    Thanks, Matt. I’ll have to look up that book. After reading this post, my mother said that eating deers hit on the side of the road wasn’t uncommon where she grew up in rural Michigan, especially in winter when the cold preserved the carcass. The reason for the hushed tone was that her father probably felt the deer “belonged” to the other driver, and that the other guy was embarassed that he’d left it in the first place. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

    Curious, I wonder how squirel might taste, too. The thing about that is it would seem like a lot of work for not much meat, don’t you think?

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