Consider the Roadkill
There are myriad arguments for and against eating roadkill. Can they all be true at the same time?
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
In 2016, Tim Bento logged on to Facebook to post in Britslist, a public buy-and-sell group for Whatcom County, Washington, that has more than 58,000 members. But Bento wasn’t buying or selling. He was publicly listing his cell-phone number and asking for roadkill.
“I told people to put me under their contacts as Deer Tim, and that if they saw one deer hit, I would go and get it, process it, and share some of the meat with them,” says Bento. “That would be an easy way for them to remember me.”
Since then, Bento has received texts from around 50 people letting him know what they’ve seen and where. He’s after deer and elk, but so far he’s only had luck with deer. Usually, he’ll get around two or three a month, resulting in about 50 pounds of meat. Sometimes miscommunication means someone has hit a domestic cow instead of an elk cow, or sometimes Bento is just unavailable—out to dinner, out of town. But if he is around, and there’s meat within a manageable radius, he will drive to it.
Initially, if he couldn’t get to an animal, Bento felt a pang of disappointment, protective over what he saw as a meat source. But that feeling quickly faded, he says, as he soon realized the obvious: in a state where more than 5,000 deer and elk are hit every year, there’s more than enough for everyone.
Despite some public skepticism, Bento, who grew up hunting wild pigs with his stepdad in Kaneohe, Hawaii, is proud to be resourceful—to glean something from nature and call it good. Especially when you remember that livestock makes up between 14.5 percent and 18 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions. “A lot of people don’t want to use a plastic straw or have this sentimentality when it comes to the environment,” he says. “It’s kind of ironic. Because roadkill salvaging is putting something to good use.”
When Bento does get a deer, he cuts the meat into chunks and steaks that he, bags, labels, and stacks in his freezer. He’s also had pepperoni and landjäger sausage made. Most often he cubes the venison, roasting it in an Instant Pot or putting it into a stew. What he doesn’t use—namely, the animal’s head, hide, and limbs—he loads into the rectangular mouth of a blue 4,500-pound incinerator on his five-acre property. “Ashes to ashes,” he says, “dust to dust.”