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Roadkill: it’s what’s for dinner (at least at our house)

2010 March 26
by Rachel Turiel

This is one of those posts where you kind of hope no one new is popping in right now to check out your blog. Or, if they are, and that is you: Hi! hope you feel okay about roadkill!

Dan and I once went to a Oktoberfest party at our friend’s Paul and Stacie’s house. Were you there too? It was 2004 perhaps? Remember that amazing venison sauerbraten I made? When Stacie praised Dan’s hunting skills in front of the knickered-crowd, we sheepishly smiled, knowing it probably wasn’t the best time to announce: actually we found that deer on the side of the road!

And goodness knows, there’s nothing sexy about roadkill. Where “grassfed, locally raised, sustainable beef” has a nice ring, “gravel-embedded, tossed to the shoulder, back legs crushed,” is not how we like to think of our dinner.

And yet. The deer keep dying in miscalculated bolts across the road. And the meat is good, and free, and that animal never saw a syringe full of antibiotics nor a feed-lot heaped with soy pellets and stinking of animal shit.

Dan found the young doe, still alive though wounded, between Bayfield and Pagosa. If you’re local you’re nodding your head because you too have seen your share of roadkill on that stretch of highway. Dan’s co-worker killed her swiftly with a blow to the head, so quick that by the time Dan retrieved his knife from the truck, the deer was dead. The two men gutted her (off the clock of course) and left her head and entrails in the oakbrush for any number of lucky animals. The Bayfield Marshall came by, issued them a “roadkill permit” and thanked them for doing the right thing.

Here’s Col holding the legs up while Dan carves out the tenderloins. And there’s our cat on the left, coming to see what’s in it for her.

It’s a family affair. Even the chickens want in.

This is Dan telling the camera-woman: “keep those hens off the tenderloins!” (Rosie has been given a small piece of flesh to give the chickens. They’re still clucking about it)

And, where she hangs until Saturday butchering day. The shed AKA meat locker.

And one more picture, from a past roadkill donated to us by Claire. This is Dan with the deer’s backstrap. I always thought there was a quiet, respectful beauty to this picture.

Oh dear (no pun intended). I hope I didn’t lose anyone. In honesty, I am proud that my children do not suffer a disconnect between real life and their food. I’m grateful that they will join us at the butchering table tomorrow, helping as they can. I believe that these experiences will help them value the lives that feed them.

And you? What are you doing this weekend? If you’re free, come on over Saturday and help us butcher, we’ll send you home with some good meat.

* for more on our family adventures in roadkill, click here. For a joyous family butchering story, here.

33 Responses leave one →
  1. Steph permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Will trade chiropractic adjustments for meat!!! Honestly, I’m just not the butchering type… I didn’t even look over the fence when my neighbor was butchering his pronghorn in his backyard last fall. But if there’s any way I can help you guys out to trade for some meat, I’m in!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 26, 2010

      You got it girl! We’ll probably all NEED chiropractic adjustments after stooping over the butchering table.

  2. March 26, 2010

    catching up after two weeks of travel…

    reading this post was so comforting — like getting together with my best friend from childhood after years of being out of touch and picking right up where we left off.

    love your writing. love your blog. love that i am continually inspired (and entertained) when i visit.

    as for the weekend…not sure yet. still foggy brained from the flight (and the drugs i took to get me through it) and busy negotiating with my kids to give me just “five more minutes” to finish my vacation book (“something borrowed”) that my hairdresser loaned me. such a good book!!


    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 26, 2010

      Thank you Erin, I am honored that you found time to come here in the midst of travel re-entry.

  3. Audrey permalink
    March 26, 2010

    And… THAT’s why I’m a vegetarian! However I love that you guys do this, and I think your kids are so lucky to have this knowledge and experience.

    Will send Ryan and the girls over after naps, if you’re still butchering (we have gymnastics and Everett in the morning). Meanwhile, keeping my personal self removed from that part of the food chain. I’ll have a hot bath and a glass of vino instead. :-)

  4. March 26, 2010

    I would much rather eat this that those animals raised in a giant farm where they’ve never seen sunshine or known what it is like to move around. It is cruel and senseless, and I went for years not eating meat in protest of this.

    I tell people that I like to eat “happy animal meat” and so give me game, give me roadkill any day. At least they lived a full(ish) life, up until that point.

    Have a wonderful feast. I am envious.

    • March 26, 2010

      So funny, JT. We call it “happy meat” at our house, too. “What’s for dinner, Mommy? Are we having happy chicken?”

  5. March 26, 2010

    *laughing* Is that not just the worst stretch of road for animals? Beautiful though. My hubby and his best friend were known for doing the same thing. Must be a Durango thing!

  6. March 26, 2010

    Ohhhh, honestly! Our family would love to join yours! (The last roadkill we had was courtesy of the town ambulance — Lucian is a volunteer EMT and one night they hit a deer on the way to a call.)

    Do you know the Horseflies? They do a song call “Roadkill” that we sing around here. : )

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 26, 2010

      I like that song Diane. It speaks to me.

  7. March 26, 2010

    We are mostly vegetarians for the reasons you mentioned: antibiotics, feed lots, and poor quality of life for the animals. I’ve often felt, if I’m going to eat meat at all, I should be able to kill/hunt/prepare it myself, which I would probably only be able to do in a true starvation situation. I admire your family for using the resources available to you. That those suffering, dying animals are helping to sustain other lives gives their own purpose.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 26, 2010

      Stacia, if it weren’t for Dan who knows what to do with a dead animal, I would eat a LOT less meat too.

  8. March 26, 2010

    Damn. If I could do it, I would. But I couldn’t. I do think it’s amazing, and the ‘right’ way to feed your family if you can. In Denver, I’m currently looking into locally owned livestock ranches that do whole animal sharing~the next best way, in my opinion.

    On the same topic~~Theo asked me recently while we were eating pork for dinner where it comes from. Without any thought, I said..pigs. My husband looked slightly horrified as we watched Theo processing that, and seemed surprised that I’d be honest about it at his age.
    I wouldn’t have been dishonest. I, too, think it’s wonderful for children to know where food comes from.

    No slaughtering here this weekend! Just some good rest. :)

  9. abozza permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Okay, so, not my cup of tea, however I love to know that we live in such a diverse world that we can all coexist nicely, doing whatever it is we do to feed our families! I’m impressed that your kids are so cool with it and not squeamish about it. I’m a big believer in not coddling kids about life facts, such as this…my kids know where their food comes from…your kids get to participate in the process. Very cool!

  10. Melissa permalink
    March 26, 2010

    this made me laugh, partly because my guys are on their way back from picking our dinner up from a middle eastern place in the mission–i feel like such city folk! and though we live in the hyper aware bay area, i still have guilt about not “doing enough.” then i realize we all contribute in different categories. so i’m glad you guys are eating roadkill (mostly because you know what you are doing and you make it sound good and i know it’s good for the rest of us–i hope that doesn’t sound selfish!). my friend has a newly hunting husband and i am so fascinated/love hearing about it.

    as for the weekend . . . we started early with a lovely day of bike riding around angel island. such a gorgeous day. and tomorrow we head down to monterey to visit my in laws for early seder.

    enjoy that meat!

  11. Ami permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Oh, how I wish more of my meat came from the side of the road… I honestly tried my hand at some local racoon.. but I was too inexperienced – it didn’t come out right!? Do you have any advice about that!? :) ha ha ha… I would SO rather eat a deer! :) Anyhow, I am blessed – they have local venison at the coop now! We are spoiled here! :) Enjoy your butchering!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 26, 2010

      Raccoon! That’s bold Ami and I love you for it. I’ll have to talk to a certain redneck friend about that. I’ll get back to you. —– Original Message —–

  12. March 26, 2010

    i am not a meat eater, but what makes me laugh is that wasn’t my first thought when i was reading this post. my first thought was “well heck, what is wrong with eating road kill?” if i lived somewhere it was common and i ate meat, i’d go for it. before blogs, i participated in a frugal online forum and i remember one woman specifically talked about eating roadkill and how best to do it. it is free!

  13. jojo permalink
    March 29, 2010

    yum yum, that baby got nice backstrap.
    mama n papa sure know how to cook it-
    soooo tender n soooo sweeeet,
    it could pass for dessert

  14. March 29, 2010

    this is so great for you guys. i, much to my husbands dismay, do not like venison. and so when we have the opportunity i always tell him to pass it up. i don’t want to waste meat that will just sit in our freezer. i like to read your posts a lot, they always make me giggle out loud. especially the previous post…you could catch a little zev with that trap as well…he loves loves toothbrushes! xo, pennie

  15. March 29, 2010

    And I’m just thrilled to have found the remains of a buck up from the Girl Scout camp this weekend. The skull with its one antler still attached has made its way home with me, and I’m going to bleach the skull before bringing it in to show at a number of Show and Tells with the kids.

    I’m such the city folk.

  16. March 29, 2010

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  17. Beth permalink
    March 29, 2010

    There’s nothing gruesome about an animal saved from further suffering and used to feed a respectful and thankful family! Gruesome is factory farmed meat! gah, note to self, be strong, resist that chicken at the grocery store tomorrow!

  18. March 29, 2010

    In honesty, I am proud that my children do not suffer a disconnect between real life and their food. I’m grateful that they will join us at the butchering table tomorrow, helping as they can. I believe that these experiences will help them value the lives that feed them.


    I am hunting for the first time in my life this year. Perhaps roadkill is next!

  19. March 30, 2010

    I think this is quite fabulous. Brilliant, even.

  20. March 30, 2010

    Best roadkill in town! You guys ROCK!! Keep on doing what you’re doing and sharing every glorious and kinda gross detail.

  21. March 30, 2010

    Right place, wrong time — just popped over for the first time! But you had me at roadkill. An ambivalent carnivore myself, I can’t imagine a better deed than putting an animal to use, rather than letting it go to waste. (I also can’t imagine butchering it myself; more power to your spouse!!) I just love this. And am happy to have found this spot. Thanks.

  22. May 25, 2010

    First time visiting and you had me at the word “roadkill”…hows this for setting your mind at ease about new readers – Papa Pan wooed me with roadkill rabbit stew. No joke.

    I brought the weed salad and the rest is history.

    The easy way to deal with winter roadkill is keep the chain saw in the back of the car with a tarp. Just bring home the hindquarters, much easier!

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