Roadkill a harmless all-you-can-eat buffet or Russian roulette

Roadkill was an underrated 1989 Canadian film by Bruce McDonald that was called “an increasingly weird mix of Heart of Darkness and The Wizard of Oz.”

And about a girl who learns to drive.

There are some food safety aspects to roadkill.

According to Manny Alvarez of Fox News, in 2017, Wisconsin saw nearly 20,000 deer-caused vehicle accidents, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. These accidents usually peak in May, June, October and November, when deer mating and birthing seasons occur?

Wisconsin allows people to register their car-killed deer, bear or turkey online or by phone. Once confirmed, the animal can be removed and used as food without even waiting for a police-issued tag.

But Wisconsin isn’t the only state friendly to roadkill cuisine.

According to The Guardian, over 600 moose are killed in Alaska each year, leaving meat on the road that tallies to thousands of pounds. Rather than wasting it, the state gives the roadkill to charities willing to process and use the animals at their own risk.

Other states that allow roadkill pickups are Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Tennessee. According to the NY Daily News, California is also trying to legalize this practice, which may be further spurred on by the cost of disposing of car-killed animals.

One study by the UCDavis Road Ecology Center counted about 6,600 roadkill instances in California during its study period. These accidents led to an estimated $307 million in expenses for the state, and estimates go as high as $600 million when factoring in accidents unreported to police.

By these numbers, the stakes appear high for officials deciding what to do with road-killed animals. Allowing drivers and bystanders to take the roadkill home seems an easy solution. In fact, the practice has many supporters high up in the ranks.

The PETA website states, “If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket.

“Eating roadkill is healthier for the consumer than meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants, as most meat is today.”


But there are those nasty bacteria to consider, so roadkill, like any raw product, should be handled with care.

Roadkill is his only red meat

In its continuing quest for food porn, NPR quotes Jeff Potter as saying, “Last autumn, my brother phones on his way home from the grocery: ‘I was driving to the store and there wasn’t a deer in the road, but on the way back there was, so it’s gotta be fresh!’ “

roadkill.deerPotter, who lives in exurban Lansing, Mich., was busy processing mail orders for his outdoor sports business, but he knew he had to act fast or someone might beat him to it. He spread a tarp in the back of the family minivan and raced to the scene, where he found a young doe on the shoulder of the road. He pulled the deer into the van, then called the police for permission to take it home. To eat.

Potter is a 53-year-old father of two who operates Out Your Backdoor, a website dedicated to “indie” outdoor culture. He has hunted, fished, biked and skied around Williamston, Mich., his whole life. Today it’s much less rural than it was when he was a kid, but “there’s still this tremendous amount of interstitial space that deer thrive in,” he says. And during the fall mating season, when the animals start getting frisky, “there are tremendous numbers of car-deer accidents around here.”

Potter is known among his friends and family for collecting roadkill of all species: deer, pheasant, turkey, rabbit, squirrel. They call him when they spot felled critters by the roadside, and he serves stews and roasts made from them at family dinners and large dinner parties. How do his guests rate the meals? So far, he says, he’s “batting 1,000.” Roadkill venison makes up the near totality of the red meat his family consumes. And no one’s ever gotten sick.

Not that he knows of.

Roadkill at restaurants; man sold deer, raccoons and other Indiana wildlife to Chicago restaurants

A Chicago man was arrested Monday after police made the unsavory discovery he was illegally selling Indiana wildlife to food markets in the Windy City.

Alexander Moy, 47, is being held in the Starke County Jail in Knox, Ind., roughly 90 minutes east of Chicago and is charged with two counts of up-roadkill_lgbuying and selling wildlife. Both offenses are Class D felonies, according to NBC Chicago.

Lt. Thomas Torsell of the DNR said Moy illegally bought the wildlife from hunters and fishermen and in turn sold the products to marketplaces in Chicago, particularly to eateries in Chinatown and possibly other parts of the city.

“We’re talking about some fish, turtles, raccoons and white-tailed deer,” Torsell said according to CBS Chicago.

The Northwest Indiana Times reports Moy told officials with the DNR the raccoons and turtles were mostly used for soup while the deer was “mixed in with other meat.”

The safety of roadkill is a risk/benefit question

Food safety is all about risk/benefit tradeoffs and trust. I base my consumption choices on lots of factors with risk level, source and production practices amongst them (mixed in with price and taste).

I don’t eat raw sprouts because they’ve been linked to lots of outbreaks; seed stock can be contaminated and there seems to be an inconsistent implementation of best practices.  And no one has peeled back the curtain on day-to-day management and marketed food safety by sharing real-time data on irrigation effluent sampling, product sampling or proof of implementation which would increase my trust. The risks don’t outweigh the benefits, to me. The information just isn’t there.

Eating roadkill is another risk/benefit decision. I’ve never had any (that I know of) but it’s not a strictly bad practice/good practice situation. While illegal to harvest side-of-the-road dead animals in some jurisdictions, others, like Montana, are investigating relaxed rules.

The risk/benefit decision is often murky. Food safety is important, but so is actually having food. New friend Andrea Anater of RTI and I shared a guest lecture this week around coping strategies for individuals and families with very low food security and- meaning they often do not have enough to eat and food safety is not as high of a priority as calories. And sometimes people eat roadkill.roadkill-1

Liz Neporant of ABC news reports,

By passing a bill last week that allows motorists to eat their roadkill, the Montana House of Representatives may be on their way to legalizing the ultimate drive-through experience.
State Rep. Steve Lavin originally introduced the bill into Montana’s House to allow “game animals, fur-bearing animals, migratory game birds and upland game birds” who have been killed by a car to be harvested for food.

“This includes deer, elk, moose and antelope, the animals with the most meat,” said Lavin.

“The risk is relative depending on the condition of the animal and how it was killed,” said Benjamin Chapman, a food safety specialist with North Carolina State University. “In roadkill if you happen upon the animal, you don’t know its condition, which makes it riskier than eating regulated food or an animal you’ve hunted.”

Should you decide that flattened moose is what’s for dinner, Chapman advised using a meat thermometer and cooking large game to a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When dressing the carcass, keep it away from other foods, scrub work surfaces with bleach afterward, and wash hands thoroughly.

Being hungry and sick from foodborne illness (or another zoonoses) isn’t a good thing.  The conditions under which the animal died might not be known (like whether it sick when hit) or how long it has been sitting at the side of the road (with pathogens potentially growing and creating toxins). Those are the things I worry about, but I’m fortunate enough to have ready access to food.

Kentucky restaurant shut down after road kill deer found in kitchen

WYMT reports a Chinese restaurant was forced to shut its doors after getting caught with a dead deer in the kitchen.

It happened Thursday afternoon at the Red Flower Chinese Restaurant in Williamsburg.

“We were actually joking about the, you know, the whole Chinese restaurant. You know some rumors that you hear,” says Katie Hopkins, a customer of the Red Flower restaurant.

But, Hopkins and her friends never imaged what would happen next, after finishing up a buffet lunch.

“Two of the workers came in wheeling a garbage can and they had a box sitting on top of it. And hanging out of the garbage can, they were trying to be real quick with it. So that nobody could see it. But there was like a tail, and a foot and leg. Sticking out of the garbage can and they wheeled it straight back into the kitchen,” adds Hopkins.

Hopkins immediately called the health department to describe what she saw, “Many people eat there. A lot of locals eat there on lunch breaks and stuff. It was very disturbing. There was actually a blood trail that they were mopping up behind the garbage can.”

Paul Lawson, the environmental health inspector in Whitley County says this is the craziest thing he’s ever seen.

After he arrived at the Chinese restaurant on south highway 25 West, he says the complaints proved to be true after finding roadkill in the restaurants kitchen.

Lawson tells us that the owner’s son admitted to picking up a dead deer off the side of I-75 north in Williamsburg.

This prompted the health department to immediately shut down business.

“They said they didn’t know that they weren’t allowed to. So that makes me concerned. But maybe thy could have before. They didn’t admit to doing it before,” says Lawson.

Lawson tells us that the restaurant can reopen if they pass a secondary health inspection, proving that they have washed, rinsed, and sanitized the restaurant after having roadkill inside.

The restaurant owner tells the health department that he wasn’t going to serve the road kill to customers, but instead to his family.

Manitoba Hutterite company fined for reselling turkeys to Guelph man and used for hockey fundraisers

CBC News reports that a business owned by a Manitoba Hutterite colony has been fined for selling thousands of turkeys deemed not fit for human consumption.

Hazelridge-based Heartland Colony Farms Ltd. recently pleaded guilty to a charge under the federal Meat Inspection Act in a Winnipeg courtroom and was handed a $10,000 fine.

"There are very much public safety concerns here," provincial court Judge Sid Lerner said, adding the company showed "negligent conduct" in how it allowed the roughly 13,154 kilograms of frozen turkey carcasses to be re-introduced into the food chain.

According to the facts of the case presented by federal Crown attorney Jeremy Akerstream, the colony purchased the turkeys "sight unseen" for $16,000 in 2007 after a truck ferrying them from a British Columbia plant crashed on an Alberta highway.

They were transferred from the crashed truck to two others, meaning the turkeys were no longer fit for human consumption unless they were reinspected under federally-approved guidelines, Akerstream said.

The turkeys, which were the property of an unidentified major meat processing company, were then sold in a salvage deal to the Manitoba colony.

The colony took possession of the birds and had them repackaged into clear plastic bags. They then sold and shipped the majority to a man in Guelph, Ont. for about $27,000.

In turn, he passed on the turkeys to minor hockey league clubs in Aurora and Markham, as well as to a business, the prosecutor said.

There were no illnesses reported as a result of the birds being back in the food chain, Akerstream said.

In one interview, a company official said, "he didn’t know what the big deal was, he had eaten some of the turkeys and no one got sick," Akerstream said.

When the charge was laid, many on the colony reacted with "complete and utter shock," said defence lawyer Jamie Kagan, who represented the company in court.

"This has become a very, very expensive mistake from their perspective," he said.

Roadkill burgers banned in Newfoundland

"I’ve been involved in getting moose for over 30 years from wildlife, and I have never heard of anyone ever getting sick from eating a moose burger."

So says Dave Barker, who works for the Knights of Columbus in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland.

I hear similar sentiments all the time. It’s completely meaningless.

If someone got sick from a past practice, they would probably not accurately link it to a specific food; if they died, they wouldn’t be around to complain.

But perhaps the bureaucrats in the Canadian province of Newfoundland have gone a bit too …  bureaucratic.

The provincial government recently discontinued the donation of roadkill moose meat, and charity groups say the decision strips them of a vital source of fundraising.

For decades, wildlife officers have offered charities moose killed in road collisions. The charities had butchers mince the meat into burgers, a very popular treat in the province, and held community barbecues and other events to raise money for their various causes.

"It depends on how much moose is actually destroyed in the accident, but normally you get at least two moose burger sales out of one moose, so you’re looking at anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000," said Shane Budgell, president of the Lions Club in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The government’s decision comes after the province’s auditor general flagged problems earlier this year about the department’s donations of wild game meat.

"The department did not always track where all of the meat from a particular animal was sent," John Noseworthy wrote in his annual report.

After a review, the government decided to stop donating roadkill moose meat, saying the practice would expose them to liability if any health or safety risks arose.

Moose are ruminants, and there have been outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 associated with moose meat (it’s not just corn-fed feedlot cattle; I’m talking to you, Michael Pollan and Food Inc.).

But rather than ban the use of roadkill, why not have better training for butchers and food service types and teach them how to not cross-contaminate and use tip-sensitive thermometers to ensure the meat is prepared safely?

How to control squirrels in the UK? Eat ’em.

I’m always open to trying new foods, but I don’t know if I’m all that interested in eating squirrel.  Sure they’re terribly cute with their little hands and bright eyes, but I can’t help but wonder what kinds of diseases they carry.  In terms of food I’ve always thought squirrel was more of a roadkill dish.

The Brtis sure don’t agree with my opinion of the squirrel.  There is a booming industry for squirrel meat in the UK, and the public cannot get enough of it.  In farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.  It’s not just a matter of eating something trendy, culling squirrels has become a necessity with the red squirrel population being pushed out by the gray squirrels.

“The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by generations since. The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)

The “Save Our Squirrels” campaign began in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for their marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of “Save a red, eat a gray!” the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat.”

Though squirrel has been promoted as a low-fat food, discrepancies have been found in meat quality.  Nichola Fletcher, a food writer and co-owner of a venison farm, said that in her experience, “the quality and amount of fat varied from no visible fat to about 30 percent, depending on the season, their age and, especially, diet.”  I guess there’s no USDA grading system for squirrels. Though there don’t seem to be written standards in preparing a squirrel dish, food safety standards, such as handwashing and cooking meat thoroughly, should always be a top priority when preparing a meal.

“If you want to grab your shotgun, make sure you have very good aim — squirrels must be shot in the head; a body shot renders them impossible to skin or eat. (You want to get rid of the head in any event, as squirrel brains have been linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease.)”

For those interested in trying squirrel, recipes can be found here and here.

Lobster spared from road kill sold as 2-for-1 dinner special

Arnold A. Villatico, the owner of Periwinkles & Giorgios Italian Pub and Restaurant in Oxford, Massachusetts, faces criminal charges of larceny over $250, conspiracy, and unlicensed possession of shellfish after dozens of condemned lobsters from an overturned truck allegedly appeared on customers’ dinner plates.

The Boston Globe reports that on July 27, a tractor trailer carrying 11,000 pounds of fresh lobster from Canada crashed on I-395 in Webster. The wreck tore the refrigerated container carrying the lobsters and spewed 150 gallons of diesel fuel across the load and roadway, which was closed for 12 hours.

A Webster health inspector declared the toppled load unsalvageable. And although local health inspectors are required by the state to witness the destruction of condemned food, that never happened.

Town manager Joseph M. Zeneski said Villatico began selling lobsters from a refrigerated truck behind his restaurant, and the restaurant reportedly offered $19.99 lobster specials. Police found crates of lobster inside the restaurant and plucked lobsters from boiling pots as evidence, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.

"He had a sign out, two for one," Zeneski said in an interview.

There were no reports of illness associated with the lobsters, and Villatico’s restaurant remains open.

Approximately 2,070 surviving lobsters were loaded and transported to Boston. Then officers hauled them onto a boat and released them just outside Boston Harbor, a half mile east of the North Channel buoy. Officials said they unbanded the lobster claws first.