Can you really eat crow? More than 300,000 animals are hit by vehicles in the road each year, according to a study by the Federal Highway Administration, and the figure is believed to very under-reported.
While an estimated 200 people die from these collisions in the U.S. every year, it's mostly the wildlife that get the raw end of the deal.
Which brings us to the issue at hand. If you accidentally kill something on the road, can you eat it?
The topic generates clever headlines across the Internet like "Meals Under Wheels" and "Roadkill, It's What's for Dinner." The Roadkill Cafe on Route 66 in Seligman, Ariz., offers menu options such as Bad-Brake Steak, Fender Tenders, Caddie Grilled Patty, Splatter Platter, Swirl of Squirrel, Big Bagged Stag, and Highway Hash. In Pocahontas County, W.V., there's an annual roadkill cook-off, (your chance to taste "exotic dishes like squirrel gravy over biscuits, teriyaki-marinated bear or deer sausage") with competitive team names like You Hit 'Em We Spit 'Em.
Eating roadkill is nothing new. There are at least 20 states that allow some version of harvesting roadkill for food, according to the Washington Post, and California, which has one of the most comprehensive roadkill observation systems, is now considering its own "You Kill It, You Grill It" law.
Is it wrong to eat something you've just struck with your car? Ethically, assuming you're a meat eater, even PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) says roadkill is "a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket...laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants," and says it's more humane in that animals killed on the road were not "castrated, dehorned or debeaked without anesthesia" and perhaps the animal never knew what hit it. (They also offer a vegetarian starter kit, which you might want by the end of this article.)
From a legal standpoint, laws on plucking up roadkill for food vary from state to state. For starters, don't hit things on purpose. Check with your state fish and wildlife agency for roadkill harvest laws, there's also a good list at StoneAxeHerbals, a blog about living off the land. There is much to consider legally, including state hunting laws, federal laws, endangered species laws, liability laws, local laws... and these may depend on the type of animal, whether the road is state, local or federal. It's complicated. So before you peel a carcass off the asphalt, make sure you know whether or not you'll end up in handcuffs.
Lastly, is it safe? Assuming you're picking up something fresh that isn't already diseased with rabies or botulism, hasn't recently consumed rodent poison and isn't a still-living and now very angry bear, then your best bet is to treat it like any other raw meat... it's going to go bad fast if it's not skinned, cleaned, butchered and on ice in a timely fashion. And even if you make it that far, cook it well. Wild game can carry parasites, e. Coli,salmonella and tuberculosis. Cook it very well.
Here are some animals often struck by vehicles in the U.S., and whether you should dine off the double yellow line.