Skip to comments.The Real Roadkill Cafe
Posted on 03/18/2005 5:41:36 AM PST by MississippiMasterpiece
Activity in the wilderness community came to an abrupt halt. Foraging for food, repairing homes and tending to primitive agriculture would have to waitsomeone had just returned carrying a freshly killed deer, and cleaning, preparing and cooking it for the nights feast became a communal priority.
Even though most of the people there considered themselves vegetarians or vegans, eating this type of meat was acceptable. The deer hadnt been brought down by a gun, or even a bow and arrow. It was roadkill.
Few studies have been conducted to measure the number of animals killed by automobiles. High school science teacher Brewster Barnett (aka Dr. Splatt) has had students from all over New England participate in roadkill censuses every spring for the last 13 years, and they estimate that 250,000 animals become traffic victims everyday.
But despite the astronomical casualty count, little has been done to find uses for the animals. At least, not until a group of activists decided to educate others about eating these transportation byproducts.
Like many Americans living in the land of catch-phrase T-shirts, Columbus Rob Erisbright first heard about people eating roadkill from Roadkill Cafe merchandise. In grade school, he associated it with hillbillies and West Virginia.
That changed after a 2003 bike trip to the Georgia gathering described above, where Erisbright learned the step-by-step process of turning animals killed by cars into delicacies.
Erisbright had been mostly vegetarian, and the whole ordeal of preparing an animal by hand was difficult. We cut the deer into little cubes, and the next day, when I went to sleep, I had visions of the deer getting cut up and gutting it, he said.
Now the 25-year-old enjoys roadkill regularly with his friends. Last fall, they found two deer and spent three days preparing the carcasses in their campus-area house; the hide from one of them is still hanging in the basement, waiting to be tanned.
Erisbright and his friends are not alone. Activists all over the country are being inspired by an organization called Wildroots. Located on a 30-acre homestead in North Carolina, these green anarchists are critical of modern society and believe that reconnecting with wildness will abolish the oppressive institutions of civilization.
Members of Wildroots live a primitive lifestyle and practice earth-based skills, like primitive shelter building, hide tanning, herbal medicine and crafts.
Alternative food sources, like roadkill, are essential to their cause, as is outreach, and the group travels the country promoting their lifestyle at conferences and workshops. One of their publications, a zine called Feral Forager, details how to eat roadkill.
For those disgusted by the notion of eating a dead animal off the side of the road, Erisbrights friend Matt Snyder said it isnt as gross as many people think.
I think people should get into eating roadkill because its food and its out there. You might as well not let it go to waste, Snyder said. It also tastes delicious.
Its not just roadkills availability that makes it attractive. Jennifer Kitchen, another of the local roadkill proponents, said traditional, factory-farmed meat is plagued by unsavory consequences, from animal cruelty to the harmful environmental effects of using fossil fuels to ship it long distances.
And most land used for growing grain and vegetables goes to feeding livestock that in turn are used to feed humans, rather than simply growing plant food for us, she said; were it not for so many Americans insisting on a meat-based diet, there would naturally be more room for wild game to roam and more land to grow crops for people.
Roadkill, or wild meat in general, is a lot healthier than the shit you find in a store because it doesnt have growth hormones or antibiotics, Snyder added.
For Erisbright, eating roadkill connects him with nature and frees him from the negative aspects of traditional consumption.
With roadkill, it gives you a real connection to the meat, he said. With our current food sources, we go to a store, look around the aisles, pick it out, and provide some kind of money to prove that we are alright to eat it. With roadkill, its right out there in the wild.
To the activists, eating roadkill has more political advantages than other forms of anti-capitalist food gathering, like Dumpster diving. While the three friends do rely on Dumpster diving for some of their food, Kitchen said this is a means and not an end in their efforts to erode their dependency on civilization.
Dumpster divers may not be participating in the consumer cycle, but the food they find is still usually as unhealthy as what you buy in stores. Were still eating the standard American diet and most of it is really crappy food, but you eat it because its free, Kitchen said. Were still sponging off the system and were not self-sufficient.
Scavenged roadkill, on the other hand, is free of capitalist trappings.
While roadkill can be found anywhere, Erisbright said quality depends on looking in the right place. Smaller, rural roads are the ideal locations. Not only is it easier to stop and pick up the carcasses when theres less traffic, but theres also less of a chance for the animals to be repeatedly run over. Feral Forager recommends leaving these animals that have been ground into paste for other natural scavengers, because theyre probably not worth it.
The legality of removing roadkill varies from state to state. West Virginia passed a law in 1998 that legalized the removal of roadkill. Tennessee followed with a law in 1999 stating road-killed game animals could be possessed for personal use and consumption, as long as they arent protected species.
Sergeant Joe Luebbers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said no laws forbid the removal of roadkill from Ohio highways, and he even approved of the activists actions.
Taking roadkill can only be good. At least its not going to waste, Luebbers said. Theyre the ones cleaning up the mess, so its saving the state money from having to clean it up.
Not that Luebbers has any intention of eating roadkill himself. I wouldnt know what to do with it, he said. I normally go to Kroger!
Kevin ODell, of the law enforcement section of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources division of wildlife, disagrees, however, and said removing roadkill is illegal unless its during the hunting season of the particular animal in question. Otherwise the animal technically belongs to the state of Ohio.
Just because an animal is lying on the road, it doesnt give anyone permission to use it, he said.
Penalties for violators can be as severe as a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Not all animals go to waste, however. ODell said some permits are given to those who could use the animal for educational purposes.
While county laws vary, most counties will let you keep roadkill after reporting it to the proper officials. When a deer is hit, a waiting list is usually kept that notifies people who can use the animal.
Like all meat, roadkill varies in taste and availability. Some common types the activists mentioned were opossum, raccoon, fox and the roadkill jackpot, deer.
Erisbright, Kitchen and Snyder were especially looking for deer the last time they ate roadkill. They were lucky to find two deer in the same day near New Albany.
Country roadkill is also advantageous because the animals tend to be healthier. Like humans, animals are a product of their diets, and the best-tasting roadkill is found in areas where the animals are eating their natural food supply.
Rural locations are better because the animals are wilder and not eating gross city food, Snyder said.
Erisbright recalled a time when he brought an urban raccoon home when Wildroots members were in town visiting. They were like, Whats that smell? Eew, its city raccoon! he said. So I got rid of it. It was pretty foul.
One might think that any dead animal found on the side of the road is pretty foul, but Erisbright and company arent that finicky. People are taught that food is suppose to have an expiration date, he said. But were evolved enough to the point where we know if something is bad just by the smell of it.
Feral Forager recommends taking each animal on a case-by-case basis, but theyre usually fit to eat even after rigor mortis or bloating has begun. Be sure to avoid anything that smells rotten, has clouded-over eyes or is covered in flies or maggots, the zine warns.
Mary Angela Miller, a registered dietitian from the Ohio Dietitian Association, disagrees. She said she would never consider eating roadkill because the animals are exposed to unsafe temperatures.
Food temperature is critical for food safety, Miller said. Any food stored between 40 degrees and 140 degrees is in a temperature danger zone.
Miller said even in the ideal freezing environment, after four hours bacteria growth would make the roadkill unfit to eat. There are extra precautions that would make the meat safer to eat if you insist on doing so, Miller said. She recommends cooking it at 165 degrees for at least three minutes (store-bought meat usually needs to be cooked at 145 degrees for 15 seconds to be considered safe).
As more and more motorists drive an increasing number of roads to far-flung suburbs, animals will continue to fall victim to speeding cars, which makes Snyder think more people will eventually turn to this scavenging movement.
The whole anti-globalization movement is growing in popularity as it becomes more evident on how fucked we are, Snyder said. In that respect, people would be more interested in hearing alternative ways of feeding themselves.
It will probably be a while before roadkill goes mainstream, however. As Erisbright said, I cant see yuppies buying natural, free-range roadkill at their co-ops anytime soon.
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A Taste Of The Wild Side - Still In The Hide
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Roadkill Cafe Menu Challengers
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from the real menu of the Road Kill Cafe
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Billy Dickerson Jr. and Cody Dyer trudged through the deep snow and dense woods with one mission: retrieve a moose carcass that had become roadkill.
They dragged the dead animal to their pickup truck and hauled it to Dickersons house, where it would be gutted and eventually sent on its way to the plates of poor Alaskans.
Its an act repeated hundreds of times each year in Alaska, where workers salvage moose roadkill and donate the meat to charities. Alaska has the nations biggest moose population, and vehicles and trains here kill about 820 of the big-antlered creatures each year.
"It gives more folks a chance for free meat. A lot of people cant afford to buy steaks or even hamburger, at least judging from the calls I get," said Eileen Brooks, the roadkill program coordinator for the Anchorage region and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, who is known among colleagues as Queen of the Gut Pile.
Other states have roadkill programs, but primarily for smaller animals like elk and deer. Maine is among the few states with moose and gives motorists first right to roadkills, then donates unwanted animals to the needy.
Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection Troopers coordinate the Alaska program, which requires that the meat be given away to anyone who asks. Not-for-profit groups, including churches, sign up to take turns collecting the roadkill remains.
Windshield pheasant isn't bad.
most of the people there considered themselves vegetarians or vegans
Save the birds.....shoot the cars (are you listening Wisconson?
Three days? Two of us turn a deer into serving portions in about four hours using a couple of knives, sharpening stone, hacksaw, freezer paper and tape. We could do it in less, but we're fussy about keeeping the fell, tallow and deer hair off the meat.
bump for later
Please note that the same bachelor's child in the Ohio Game Department is really saying Now, he is quick to claim state (and therefore his agency's) ownership of all game.
But when a deer causes an accident, then "the deer done it" and the state assumes no responsibility for any damages done by "their" deer.
And when some "re-introduced" predator like a wolf, bear, or cougar attacks someone - watch the GamePerson quickly claim the state is NOT responsible.
The GamePerson is spouting a line BS worthy of CBS.
Filet knives (for fishing) work really well for boning the meat, and are relatively cheap as well...
'ere now, is that the KING'S deer you 'ave there?
Any deer hunteers here? Stupid question, right? I thought I read where you have to remove an organ from a deer right after you kill it or else it will release a hormone or something that poisons the meat.
...do they have a drive-thru?
Oh phooey. When Mr D finds roadkill, he hauls it on top of the Jeep, hangs the carcass to gut it, butchers it. . .and our three Dobies eat 'high on the, er, deer' for the duration.
How long do you cook roadkill?
(Until the tire marks are gone)
Fire up the bbQ and sharpen the knives...
Now I have to confess. I have actually eaten fresh roadkill pheasant. It was delicious.
I guess I'm a real redneck. A few years ago here in Missouri, there was a news story about a lady hitting a deer with her car. The deer flew up in the air and came through her back windshield, landing in the backseat. My first thought was, "Wow! She won't even need to find anybody to load it up and haul it home for her!" :)
Seriously, when we lived in Kansas, my husband hit a deer late one night. He called the state troopers and waited for them to bring him a tag for it. He brought it home and I helped him process it the next morning. It was a young tender buck and tasted just fine.
"Three days? Two of us turn a deer into serving portions in about four hours using a couple of knives, sharpening stone, hacksaw, freezer paper and tape. We could do it in less, but we're fussy about keeeping the fell, tallow and deer hair off the meat."
Exactly! The last deer I helped my husband process, though, I was 3 weeks postop from a Cesarean section, so I couldn't help with any of the really heavy work - I just cleaned the meat, wrapped it and put it in the freezer. With all the nursing breaks for the youngun, it took us about 8 hours to get it finished.
I know what you mean about being fussy about cleaning the meat well. Nothing worse than hair and debris left on meat! Yuck!
I didn't let it go to waste either. ;^þ
How about five of the AgencyPerson's couguar, instead? Seems that the cats ate the deer.
And that's no typo; all cougar in North America are now known to be one subspecies, Felis concolor couguar.
The site for the original papers is at: www.EvergladesInstitute.org. Take your choice of Acrobat or DjVu.
"ere now, where'd you get 'at pelt?
Not sure that you replied to the right person.
Cougar, deer, racoons, whatever....If it's already dead it should be first come first served. (Pun intended)
Make sure you get as much of the tallow (waxy fat) and fell (gray connective tissue) as you can as well. That adds to the gamy flavor. Our venison is as mild as the best beef.
My grandfather was a Finnish fisherman, something like a Rapala filet knife was a given.
one and one forth inch not size
I wonder if putting a cow-catcher on the bumper would be considered poaching, even if it were just to protect your car from damage, should "it" happen.
I knew a man who had a roadkill fawn stuffed, because it was just too beautiful to see it gone to waste. He hunted meat for his family when he could, but this was done just because he really loved and appreciated the wild animals all around us.
Muttly wanted to preserve the beautiful tail of a dead skunk he found recently. He learned important things when he slightly missed with his Official Machete.
Trust me on this one.
Put booby traps in the roadkill and eliminate some wackos!
yes there are glands on the inner legs at the knee joint that secrete a hormone that should be removed immediately during field dressing.
Also care must be taken to remove the bladder intact.