Have a roadkill recipe to share? Montana might just bite …Robin Washington column: I’m hardly the most religious person in the world, but I do keep kosher — especially during Passover this week. So you’re not likely to find me eating roadkill. Apparently, I don’t know what I’m missing.
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
I’m hardly the most religious person in the world, but I do keep kosher — especially during Passover this week. So you’re not likely to find me eating roadkill.
Apparently, I don’t know what I’m missing.
“It’s delicious,” Daniel Klein, host of “The Perennial Plate" (www.theperennialplate.com), wrote me.
Klein, whose online documentary series is “dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating,” produced an episode specifically about eating roadkill in Minnesota.
“I’ve had wonderful braised leg,” he said. “We used to do pop-up dinners at our house in Minneapolis, where all guests were served roadkill.”
They weren’t the only damaged-goods diners.
“I’ve picked up roadkill deer and took it home and took it to my butcher,” said Chris Niskanen of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in St. Paul. “It basically had a bruised shoulder where it had been hit by a car. For all practical purposes, the meat was fresh. It was delicious.”
The reason for conversing about cadaverous cuisine was the news last week that Montana’s governor may be poised to sign House Bill No. 247: “An act creating permits to salvage certain game accidentally killed by vehicles.”
Unlike Minnesota and Wisconsin, where roadkill eatin’ has been allowed for years, scraping Bambi off the pavement for dinner is a big no-no in the Big Sky State.
“You can’t possess game animals without a hunting license,” Jason Mohr, the Montana legislative analyst who drafted the bill (and quite by happenstance, a former News Tribune staffer) said from Helena.
He couldn’t name anyone prosecuted for it, however: “People do it anyway.”
So it took someone quite familiar with deer-car encounters to bring it up in the Legislature: state Rep. Steve Lavin, who also is a Montana state trooper.
“I was at a troopers’ meeting last summer and another trooper brought up the idea. I thought, ‘It’s kind of a good idea,’ ” he said on Friday.
“I was thinking, how many times have I had people ask me, ‘Hey, can I take this?’ and I’ve had to say, ‘No it’s illegal,’ ” he continued, relating his own skirting of the rules in making roadkill available to a food bank.
As in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Montana’s bill would grant a permit or a tag to people who want roadkill for food. State Sen. Larry Jent is a co-sponsor.
“It passed the House and needed a sponsor in the Senate. I was laughing uncontrollably, so the chairman assigned it to me,” he said from Bozeman.
Lavin’s a Republican and Jent’s a Democrat, so I guess you could say it passed both parties’ carcasses. It now awaits the governor’s signature.
Yet there was some dissent, with another senator telling the Associated Press that “it doesn’t pass the smell test” because officers on the scene may not necessarily know whether an animal is safe to eat or not.
Dave Zebro, warden for the Wisconsin DNR’s northern region, said he’s weighed in on that — “especially in the summer when animals are getting old. I’ve advised folks this may be an animal you may not want to consume.”
Leading us back to roadside gourmet Klein.
“If an animal has been hit in the winter and it isn’t frozen yet, you know it hasn’t been dead long. You want to use the parts that haven’t been damaged,” Klein said. His partner, Mirra Fine, an otherwise vegetarian, also has dined on Buick-bruised buck.
“It’s meat that has no ethical boundaries.”
And that explains why even PETA is getting in on it, with some adherents more “freegan”— those who salvage and consume discarded food — than vegan.
“We’re going on tour with the Roadkill Barbecue as soon as the (Montana) governor signs it,” PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt said. “We’re going to have some sexy cowgirls (and a slogan) ‘Roadkill: It’s still meat but without the murder.’”
I don’t know how well that approach will encourage other states to follow suit. Tennessee passed a similar law in 1999, only to find itself the butt of dead possum jokes once Jay Leno got wind of it.
But if you’re looking for chow on the roads of the Gopher or Badger states, it’s good to know Minnesota and Wisconsin are leaders of the pack.
In fact, Wisconsin a few years ago updated its law to allow tags for a wider variety of ex-animals.
“Before that, if somebody hit a turkey or a bear they had to buy it from us. The only animal you could get a free tag for was a deer,” Warden Zebro said. “We do not charge you for the tag at all.”
That’s great. Engine and bodywork, unfortunately, are still extra.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org