I read this recent news story about a Kentucky Chinese restaurant dragging road kill into their restaurant and the town became skittish and shut the restaurant down.

Is eating road-killed venison a health hazard? What is the difference between a bow/gun-shot deer and and a road-killed deer, in terms of health concerns?

Can a road-killed deer be converted into quality acceptable by health depts by some form of inspection? Or, does restaurant quality venison have to come from deer farms?

  • Could it be that generally you are allowed to serve road-kill in restaurants as long as you process/dissect the road-kill in an approved abattoir rather than in the restaurant?
    – Cynthia
    Oct 7, 2012 at 8:36
  • You are asking multiple, different questions here, some of which are subjective and thus unsuitable here. Can you narrow things down to one concrete question that can have an objective answer? Is road kill safe to eat is an example, would you eat road kill is not. Oct 7, 2012 at 8:41
  • We can't provide legal advice here. I've preserved the parts specific to food safety. Also, this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, so please avoid long narratives that aren't pertinent to the main issue.
    – Aaronut
    Oct 7, 2012 at 15:40
  • Your first paragraph doesn't seem to have any bearing on your question. If you read the article, there was apparently no plan to serve the road-kill deer to the restaurant patrons: m.nydailynews.com/1.1172323#bmb=1 Oct 7, 2012 at 18:19
  • In the UK (I am told) you are not allowed to take the road-kill (usually deer I hope) if you killed it yourself. However, another passing motorist is well within their rights to take it. There are well-known locations where people park and wait for a 'freshly bent and bloodied' car to appear from the forest. They then head down the road and pick up the kill. It is usually taken to an abattoir. Oct 9, 2012 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


Animals that are killed, independent on the method, have to be examined by a veterinarian and a sample should be tested. When the test comes back clean, the animal can be butchered and eaten.

However, a restaurant kitchen is not an abattoir and there's a high risk of cross-contamination. Think about the fur, the dust, the lice or other insects on the carcass. This means a restaurant should not butcher animals. Period.

If you take a road-kill home, take a sample (the tongue) to the local vet.

  • Does it mean that my friends in Maine who deliberately install a a police-grade grill on their trucks to "hunt" for deer in the backwoods which seem to voluntarily run into vehicles, are spreading diseases in an approved and legal manner when they distribute their cuts to friends and colleagues?
    – Cynthia
    Apr 30, 2018 at 3:38
  • 1
    @CynthiaAvishegnath, to say that they "are spreading diseases" would be conjecture. They "may be spreading diseases". A sample should be taken to the vet for testing... to reduce risks. Apr 30, 2018 at 8:13

In Alaska moose roadkill is a common occurrence. Each one represents hundreds of pounds of perfectly usable meat.

The state maintains a waiting list of charities that are called to butcher and distribute the dead animals.

Obviously the health risk in Alaska is much lower than in Kentucky just because of the lower average temperature.

  • 1
    I seriously doubt that charities would be allowed to take and butcher the animals. What they probably do is to take them to an abattoir, have them examined and butchered.
    – nico
    Oct 7, 2012 at 16:37
  • 4
    @nico- I have been personally seen groups that were called by the state, field dressed the moose, and distributed the meat. I don't know of what examination process the meat may have gone through. Oct 7, 2012 at 18:08
  • 1
    well, then they were not butchering the animals themselves...
    – nico
    Oct 8, 2012 at 5:43

There is no difference how it dies, by bow, shotgun or truck. The only concern is what diseases the animal may have but you have those same concerns if you're a hunter.

Now, I own a restaurant but I don't know what our inspector would say if I started butchering animals we dragged in off the street. While he may be fine with it, it's the appearance to the unknowing customer that may cause problems and, possibly, nothing beyond that.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 29, 2022 at 10:18

The first issue is you don't know when or why it was killed.

If you pick something off the roadside, maybe it looks fresh, but it only has to have been there a day or so and who knows what has crawled into it to lay eggs, licked it, nibbled at it, etc.

It's possible that the animal was hit by a vehicle because it was already sick and wandered into the road. Not being able to see the way it walks etc means you can't know this.

What is the difference between a bow/gun-shot deer and and a road-killed deer, in terms of health concerns?

If you shoot or otherwise kill an animal for food purposes, you could be unlucky and it have some disease or parasite etc. However at least you know it was fresh and how it died, and can see it's movement beforehand.

Also a professional hunter will kill it without damaging certain organs and bones. Being hit by a car might mean the animal has burst organs that can taint the meat. Or shattered bones that are distributed in the meat you end up eating.

Personally, I don't think it's worth the risk at all. But many do, and I guess you can become reasonably experienced to identify if it's safe or not, like picking mushrooms and knowing which ones are safe to eat.

  • I think the question is referring to roadkill that you know is very recent (typically because you were the one who hit the deer, or you witnessed it). Obviously roadkill that has been sitting on the side of the road for an unknown period of time is unsafe.
    – A_S00
    Jul 29, 2022 at 23:35
  • @A_S00 You're possibly correct. I didn't read that in the question and other answers tackle that. I guess with mine the Q&A is well rounded :)
    – James
    Jul 29, 2022 at 23:45

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