DISCLAIMER… Before I start I have to say that I hold NO responsibility for anyone getting sick from eating Roadkill. I offer my experiences and knowledge here freely, I do not make myself accountable for anyone else. YOU make a choice, YOU take responsibility. If in doubt, ask someone else’s advice who knows what they are doing, or just leave it well alone! With that said….
“Don’t Eat Flat Furry Roadside Snacks Before Last Diagnostic Smell Check”
I get asked many questions, one of the most common is “How do you know it is safe to eat?”
I have in the past written plenty of long-winded explanations but I felt it was time to create an “Easy to Remember” ROAD-SIDE ROAD-KILL HEALTH & SAFETY CULINARY CHECKLIST!
Okay, at this point there may be some eyebrow twitching or full-on belly laughs…. “Health and Culinary you say? In the same sentence as Roadkill??? Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!”…. but seriously, you will be surprised at how healthy roadkill can be.
Wild food foraging isn’t about being poor or desperate, its about being in tune with nature and our bodies. Some of its benefits are that it uses less packaging, less chemicals, less food miles and contains less pollution; it is cruelty free; it fosters biodiversity; our bodies ‘understand’ these natural foods, therefore cancer and other physical ailments are minimized because our immune systems are boosted naturally.
I asked some “wordsmithy” friends if they wanted to help me to create a humourous mnemonic. Mnemonics are memory devices that help learners recall larger pieces of information, especially in the form of lists like characteristics, steps, stages, parts, phases, etc. For the list I had in mind this was the perfect tool.
My dear old friend Mark “BUZZ” Busby did me, and all you fellow “Splatter Spotters”, very proud indeed with this…
Don’t Eat Flat Furry Roadside Snacks Before Last Diagnostic Smell Check”
Thank You Buzz! You’re a genius!
Soooo! That is the quick and easy way to remember the essential pointers:
‘Damage’, ‘Eyes’, ‘Fleas & Flies’, ‘Rigor Mortis’, ‘Skin’, ‘Blood’, ‘Law’, ‘Diseases’, ‘Smell’ and last but not least ‘Climate & Cooking’.
Avoid animals that have been badly damaged or ruptured internally. Check the animal carefully before stuffing it in the boot of the car (gloves are recommended and a plastic bag or tarp). If you saw the accident happen then you know it is definitely fresh. If you didn’t, only pick up those that have ‘bounced’ from being hit cleanly once, preferably to the side of the road, and with someone else’s car, lol. Obviously, don’t pick up something that’s been run over a couple or ten times, looks sick or abnormal!!
Carrion birds arrive at the scene of a road traffic accident quickly and especially first thing in the morning. Eyes are soft, succulent and easy to pluck! If there is still an eye left on the underside check it to see if it is still clear. Cloudy eyes can indicate that it isn’t fresh anymore.
Fleas & Flies
This is easy to remember – “FLEAS GOOD! FLIES BAD!”. Living & active fleas are a good sign of freshness – fleas will soon evacuate a cold dead body. If you feel squeamish about fleas a 24 hour spell in the deep freeze will finish them off.
Flies will find a carcass quickly, especially in warm weather. You may find tiny clusters of fresh long, white, oblong shaped eggs around the eyes, mouth, or other orifices. This is not so bad if you don’t intend to eat these bits and the eggs have only just been laid. If you are not sure about this or anything else mentioned so far, leave it be.
Do do not pick anything up that is old enough to be crawling with beetles, maggots or other larvae. be wary of ticks that may carry Lymes Disease. Contain ticks on a deer carcass whilst in the car using a sheet or plastic tarp.
The rate at which Rigor Mortis sets in will depend on several factors such as the animals physique, cause of death and the climate. Different sources give different figures, but very broadly and in ‘average’ circumstances with roadkill it begins from 1/2 hr (bird) – 24 hrs (deer). It becomes complete in about 12 hours or more.
Then the body relaxes again, this time as a result of decomposition. This is known as resolution of rigor. The stiffness in the muscle tissues begins to decrease owing to the enzymatic breakdown of collagen that hold muscle fibers together. This phenomenon is also referred to as “Aging of Meat”. This aging effect produces meats that are more tender and palatable, hence the ‘hanging of game’!
Does the skin have fur or feathers attached to it? Give fur a gentle tug to see if it is still firmly rooted in the skin. You don’t want chunks of hair falling out easily. Alopecia could be a sure sign that the carcass is too old or that the animal was suffering from a disease.
The skin will move freely across the muscles if the carcass is fresh. Black or purple marks can indicate where the animal has been hit, these are okay, but you may want to cut the severely bruised bits of meat away before cooking.
Ideally any blood needs to be fresh, wet and bright red. Blood or no, you should use gloves to handle dead animals, you still have to get back in the car and touch the steering wheel, your passengers, packed lunch, etc. Always keep a stash of wet wipes handy!
Generally, the UK is pretty good at allowing folk to dine from the road. Farmed animals like sheep and pigs belong to someone so they should be reported. Wild animals aren’t classified as ‘owned’ unless they’re specifically being farmed, in which case they need to be on land secured by fencing, so you’d not be likely to hit them. If found on the road they are “Fair Game”. Domestic animals like cats and dogs should also be reported.
I am no expert on the laws of other countries, so check yourself if you really need to know specifics.
Do Your “Zoonotic” Disease Homework! It is essential to research the kinds of diseases certain wild animals can catch or carry and what signs to look for. Very rarely do they transfer to humans if proper procedures are followed. Avoid giving anything you are NOT unquestionably sure about to YOUNG CHILDREN, the ENFEEBLED or PREGNANT WOMEN, just to be on the safe side.
Cooking the animal thoroughly above 70 degrees centigrade is highly recommended and boiling point will kill practically all nasties! That includes Toxoplasmosis, Bovine TB, Myxomatosis and even Rabies!!
I would be wary of eating badger from the road at the moment…. farmers who view badgers as health threats are putting their poisoned animals by the roadside to make them ‘look’ like roadkill… so be warned. I am not touching badgers for a while.
You can tell a lot by smell before you start to butcher. Smell and flavour in all meat is a combination of age, exercise, species, breed and diet. Wild animal meat can smell quite strong and ‘gamey’.
Fat is also the home of any weird or odd smell you might find in wild game; and because of its unsaturated nature also meas it goes rancid faster. Don’t ditch good wild fat though, it is very high in important vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
If it smells okay on the outside but when you open it up it smells much more than just gamey don’t eat it. Intestines have their own unique scent which you get used to and can judge accordingly. Mild gas, urine and a bit of poop may be normal too, so use your instincts on all this until experience tells you otherwise.
Male animals in rutting season can be very ‘musky’ and not palatable. No surprise there! lol.
Climate & Cooking
Consider how long the animal will be stored in a warm vehicle after you have claimed it. Use the cooler parts of the car, for example NOT in the passenger foot-well with the floor heater on full. I have put a small animal in a plastic bag before now and secured it tightly on the outside of a wound-up window! Looked weird but it worked wonderfully!
When you get to your final destination prepare or preserve your carcass ASAP.
As mentioned earlier, cooking the animal thoroughly above 70 degrees centigrade is highly recommended and boiling point will kill practically everything!
As you can see, you need to know what you’re doing, but it’s not rocket science!!
If in doubt, ask someone else’s advice who knows what they are doing, or just leave it well alone!
If you can stomach the thought of eating roadkill, and are confident you can pick out the animals safe for consumption, then I’d urge you to give it a try.
If you’ve ever eaten pheasant, hare or rabbit in a restaurant, paid a small fortune for the privilege and almost broken your teeth on the buckshot, you’d probably relish the chance to eat your gamey goodness without the fear of fillings afterwards!
Eating properly examined and prepared roadkill is definitely healthier than meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants, as most supermarket meat is today.
Road traffic casualties never knew what hit ‘em – if you pardon the pun! They did not experience what it was like to be factory farmed, castrated, de-horned, or de-beaked without anaesthetics, they did not suffer the traumatic and miserable experience of being transported long distances in a crowded truck, and did not hear the screams and smell the fear of the animals ahead of them on the slaughter line.
Ethically, I know what I would rather eat!
To see other of my blogs relating to this subject follow the links…