Keeping meat properly refrigerated is critical. Don’t forget to specifically ask patients if they have eaten roadkill if they present with diarrhea (especially in summer) & no other obvious source of infection is apparent.
An estimated 1 million animals are killed by cars each day in the US, costing the nation around $8.4 billion annually. In the state where I live and practice medicine, it is not illegal to gather and eat roadkill.
While I personally have never indulged in this delicacy, many of my patients have told me about animals making their way from the car grill to the backyard grill.
In fact, game wardens in some counties collect the large animals (bear, moose, or deer) and donate them to people who will use the meat. In the winter, such generosity is reasonable because the colder temperatures keep the meat fresh for a few days—however the same amount of time in the summer heat can make it inedible.
This leads to the story that I will share with you about a patient I saw last week. Mr. J is a 34 year-old single man who works in farming and drives a black 2014 Ford F-150. He usually only comes to our practice if he has a bad cold or a flare of his back pain, and even on those instances he is most interested in talking about country music and his truck.
Last week, he came to see me about abdominal cramps and diarrhea that had persisted for three days. Mr. J admitted to having some sweats and he thinks that he may have had a fever (although he was unable to check this because he has no thermometer). In taking the history, he was not able to share with me any facts or details that helped me to discover the cause of his symptoms. I specifically asked whether he had eaten anything unusual or different and he denied this. Then, I specifically asked if he had consumed any meat that was not purchased from the store and he told me about a small batch of stew he made one night last week from two squirrels that he had run over that night. He admitted that it had been over an hour between throwing both of them into the back of his truck and getting them into his fridge. When cooking the next afternoon, Mr. J said the squirrels’ eyes were clear, there was no foul smell, and he did not any notice bugs. As he was telling me about his meal, I recalled that just a few years ago the Hotel Vermont in Burlington offered a $75 prix-fixe dinner that featured roadkill.
Roadkill offers the taste of a wild, “free range” animal typically not available in stores. I remembered something that is really important: road kill provides a 100% organic, local, sustainable food source… one that we should all be proud of. So many of my patients here in Vermont favor those chic “farm to table” restaurants that seem to be popping up all over the place. Why not “road to table”?
Living in these parts, I have trained myself not to be judgmental and to be open to different practices. In fact, because I’ve recently been told about just how fine deer meat can taste, I’ve contacted my local game warden and asked him to put my name down on one of the “big game roadkill lists”. Here’s to hoping that my name comes up between November and March when there is a nice preserving chill in the air.
Finally, my advice to Mr. J was the following:
1.) Stick with the supermarket meats in the summer.
2.) If the weather is warm, you need to be able to get the meat into the fridge in <60 minutes.
3.) Have your dog, Rusty, eat the first bowl and see how he does with it.