Another Kind of Street Meat

Searching for abundant, organic, all-natural, free meat? Consider roadkill.

Illustration by Josh Covarrubias

Last month some 15,000 people gathered in rural Pocahontas County, West Virginia, for the 29th annual Autumn Harvest Festival and 24th West Virginia Roadkill Cook-off. To many, this backwoods tradition of serving up dishes like porcupine stew probably sounds quaint at best, vile at worst. But the cook-off is neither a fringe event, nor backwoods Appalachian yokelry—it is, many would argue, the future of ethical food incarnate. For the past decade, at least since “fermentation revivalist” Sandor Katz publicized the movement in his 2003 counterculture food manifesto The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, there’s been a growing movement in America and the U.K. to embrace roadkill cuisine as a source of guilt-free, organic, and no-cost sustenance. Spurred on by a bevvy of relevant cookbooks and new laws allowing citizen roadkill salvage, it’s getting both easier and more acceptable to eat meat off the street.

The trend makes perfect, logical sense given the scope of the roadkill situation in the United States. In 2008, there were an estimated 1 to 2 million wildlife collisions nationwide—and at least 100 million if you count birds, squirrels, and other small, less desirable critters. Montana alone noted 6,069 deer, 171 elk, 63 antelope, 33 black bears, and six mountain lions on the roadside in 2011 (and two grizzly bears in 2010), while up in Alaska they manage to clobber up to 300 moose a year. One adult male moose can yield up to 700 pounds of meat (although usually only 75 percent is salvageable). Even a deer can yield 60 pounds of venison, either free or for about $75 if taken to a butcher for preparation. Sitting right on our roads is a vast, wasted, free source of organic, hormone-free protein with the potential to save families thousands a year on groceries. As an added bonus, pulling carcasses off the pavement for consumption helps keep scavengers out of the roads, preventing further animal deaths and making it a doubly ethical meat that even some vegetarians find acceptable, acknowledging that the animals were already dead (not killed for human consumption) and ought to be well used.

Though many skeptics concede that eating roadkill is both ethical and plentiful, they’re still put off by health concerns—parasites and meat spoilage—and worry that people might use their cars as weapons to score free meat. But the health risks are similar to those of eating hunted game meat. People who learn how to assess damage, freshness, and disease in frequently encountered species should be fine, and if not, they can always consult an expert. There are even some simple guidelines and how-tos for dealing with common roadkill, but basically, it comes down to two questions: How flat is it, and how fresh is it? As for hungry drivers using their cars as meat-seeking missiles, though there were a few reported instances in Dallas in 2012, the country’s largest and oldest salvage program, which scoops up dead moose from the roadside in Alaska, has no record of any such malfeasance. In fact, they can actually use the data from reported salvages to help decrease future car-moose altercations.

Photo by Mike Mozart

Alaska’s program proves it’s possible to allow citizens to safely harvest their own roadkill meat. Before 1978, the Alaska state troopers would drive out to crash scenes and butcher any felled moose for distribution to local churches and shelters. Thereafter, to save state time and money, they began to allow charities and individuals to respond to the calls themselves, permitting people to claim the meat if they were willing to get out of bed for the typically late-night crashes. Claimants needed to respond to police calls in less than 30 minutes and pick up the meat within the first few hours. In 2011, the Alaskan program began issuing a $700,000 grant to deal with local roadkill, empowering local nonprofits to buy up flatbed trucks and winches and set up a network of on-call, trained civilian staffers to remove, butcher, and distribute quality moose meat.

Possibly spurred by Alaska’s success entrusting roadkill disposal to citizens many states have been legalizing similar collection schemes over the past few years: To date, harvesting roadkill is legal in some form in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, and West Virginia, to name a few. And this isn’t just an American phenomenon—roadkill cooking may actually be a bigger trend in the U.K., where some high-profile chefs have endorsed the practice, despite health warnings from the local Food Standards Agency. Naturalist and roadkill cuisine enthusiast Jonathan McGowan also regularly appears in the U.K. press, sporting recipes like fox curry or frog stir-fry. Programs similar to those in the United States appear to exist in parts of Australia and Canada as well, the former even boasting a roadkill café in the town of Darwin.

It seems we’re slowly approaching an age of newfound acceptance and respect for roadkill cuisine. It’s one of those rare, easy logical steps toward a more sustainable and ethical world. There’s no point in resisting; you might as well just buy in, and scrape yourself up something (relatively) fresh off the blacktop today. And if you’re on the fence about highway-flattened fare, check out these delicious recipes for badger, owl, and pigeon.

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet