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Your Guide to Cooking Roadkill

Before you write it off, hear us out...

An animal who has recently been struck and killed by a motor vehicle is no different than an animal that has been hunted. Instead of letting the animal go to waste...why not take it home and cook it up the same way you would after a hunting trip?

Collecting, cooking and consuming roadkill is more common than one would think. There are over 30 states in the U.S. where one can legally harvest roadkill. Consuming roadkill is also quite common in certain areas of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Roadkill is considered one of the most ethical meats by many animal rights activists. According to Wide Open Eats, "advocates point out that these animals were not raised or killed for food, and argue letting people harvest roadkill makes use of a valuable free-range protein source that would otherwise go to waste."

But let's discuss the elephant in the room: is eating roadkill safe? According to a Live Science interview with Nicole Meier, a specialist at the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, animals that have been killed by a motor vehicle are typically safe to eat, but there are precautions that need to be followed.

Perhaps the most important step is learning the signs of healthy roadkill. Inspect the animal for freshness. Fresh animals with maggots, flies, cloudy or milky eyes, or an odor of rotting flesh should not be picked up. Also make sure that the entire animal is intact--you don't want to eat an animal that has been flattened and scraped off the road.

It is also important to protect yourself from rabies by wearing gloves and covering any open wounds that you may have while preparing the roadkill. The cooking process does kill the rabies, but protecting yourself until the cooking begins is extremely important.

One also wants to consider the length of time that the animal has been dead and environmental factors, such as heat. "If it's summertime and that deer has been sitting on the highway — let's just say for more than like 10 or 15 minutes — I would be super leery of it," Meier said in the interview. Bacteria grows faster at higher temperatures. The location of the deceased animal matters, too. If the animal is sitting in a puddle of dirty water or nearby a rotting animal, you may want to pass.

If the animal is recently deceased and appears clean and tidy, be sure to read up on your state laws regarding roadkill collection. Some states require a permit to collect roadkill, and in others you must make a report of the collection to the appropriate authorities. Upon discovering (or accidentally hitting) the animal, be sure to field dress it as soon as possible to keep it from spoiling.

You can then take the animal to a butcher, or butcher it yourself. When cooking roadkill, it is vital to cook it at a higher-than-usual temperature to kill any possible pathogens or parasites. A meat thermometer comes in handy during the process to ensure that the meat is cooked extremely well-done.

If you plan on collecting and killing roadkill, be well-versed in the signs of animal illness and proper preparation techniques. This guide is a starting point---if you are planning to collect and cook roadkill, please do further research.

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