Attention grocery shoppers: Looking for cheap, range-fed meat that is full of vitamins, low in fat, completely organic and probably very tenderized?
Like to eat on the road, literally?
Wyoming and Montana have proposed bills that would legalize the eating of roadkill, joining many other states that have already passed such legislation.
Talk about a drive-thru.
The menu will include game birds, deer, elk, antelope, moose and anything else with wings or four legs that winds up on the side of the road.
If this makes you salivate, you're in luck. Utah has allowed the consumption of road kill for years. All you have to do is get permission from the Division of Wildlife Resources and beat the magpies and crows to the kill. After that, it's all yours — a steak dinner that's cheaper than the McDonald's Dollar Menu and probably healthier for you (provided the carcass isn't too old and you don't get hit by a car while collecting your vittles and wind up as roadkill yourself).
I don't know about you, but I've already got a bottle of A-1 in the glove box, along with napkins, a knife, a bib, salt and flypaper. You know, just in case.
But not really. I can't remember ever coming across roadkill and thinking, "I'm hungry." No, sir, if it's not in a bun or wrapped in butcher paper resting quietly in a refrigerator with a USDA stamp on it, I'll pass.
But that's me.
And that's Phil Douglass, too.
"I can't see it myself," says Douglass, an officer with Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources for about 25 years. "Most of these animals have been hit by a vehicle and are in pretty bad shape."
There is a difference between being tenderized and being smooshed.
But some people like it. Paul Opel, for instance. The music instructor in Vermont told Foodsafetynews.com that he has been eating roadkill for 30 years, and apparently he's still alive. Opel favors winter roadkill for its natural refrigeration.
Even PETA doesn't object to the roadkill-as-food philosophy. The thinking here is that the animal is already dead, so if you must eat meat, then bon appetite. It's better than letting it go to waste.
In some states, you can get on a list and when roadkill becomes available you'll get a call to come scrape up your meal off the road. Sort of like ordering out for pizza and waiting for a fender to deliver. Or think of it as roadkill takeout.
There are hundreds of roadkill recipes on the Internet, by the way. You can — to borrow a line from "Forest Gump" – "barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it …"
According to one report, there are about 253,000 animal-vehicle collisions annually, which sounds like a lot of steak dinners — I mean carcasses. No wonder someone came up with the idea of Roadkill Bingo to "entertain" long-distance travelers. The board game features pictures of 24 animals on a grid, and when a certain animal is spotted on the side of the road, a chip is placed over the picture. It requires a macabre sense of humor.
Of course, not everyone can be so picky when it comes to meat. As Douglass puts it, "We do have a list of people in our office that want to get meat donated to them. They need it. But, most of the time, from what I've seen of roadkill deer, it's not in good condition."
The problem — if you are contemplating a roadside meal — is deciding if the meat is too old, since chances are you weren't present when the animal was hit. Personally, I wouldn't touch it until a CSI squad had inspected it and told me to the minute how long the animal had been down. And then I still wouldn't eat it.
Let's put it this way: Douglass says roadkill is often offered to wildlife rehabilitators whose job is to nurse wildlife back to health after an injury. "Sometimes even they won't take it," he says. "They're worried about giving it to birds of prey. That's an indicator of what we're talking about."
By the way, it's illegal to intentionally hit an animal; accidental collisions between man and beast are frequent and hazardous enough for drivers and animals. Douglass knows of some people who avoid certain roads at times during the year simply to prevent hitting a deer.
The best way to avoid the roadkill dilemma is simple: Avoid hitting the animal. On the other hand, maybe you'll want to take a fork on the road just in case.