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Outside-the-box meat consumption

Eating roadkillSome of my favorite parts of Unlearn, Rewild are the chapters on meat, which present very outside-the-box thinking.  Miles Olson was once a vegan, but he experienced a journey similar to mine and Mark's --- as he got closer to nature, he realized it made more sense to eat meat.  That's where our paths diverged from Olson's, though, since Mark and I got into pasturing livestock and Olson got into...figuring out when roadkill is safe to consume.

Ever wonder if that deer by the side of the road is delectable meat going to waste, or is a case of food poisoning in disguise?  Olson provides these tips for when to snag the carcass and when to leave it lying:

  • If the hair pulls out easily when you tug on it, the meat is old and might not be safe.
  • Clouded-over eyes are another indication of age.
  • Rigor mortis is actually a sign of relatively fresh meat since the stiffness only lasts for a day or less.
  • Big maggots are a sign of old meat.  In addition, maggots will pre-digest your meat, changing the flavor (but not necessarily making it unsafe to eat).
  • If it's cold outside, the meat is probably safer than if you found the deer on a scorching summer day.
  • Smaller critters (like rabbits) actually keep better than big animals (like deer) because their guts are smaller and less prone to rupturing and sullying the meat.

Assuming you followed Olson's advice and decided the deer by the side of the road was safe to eat, what's next?  Olson provided some tips we can all benefit from about aging meat, a process that makes meat more tender.  He explains that the biggest danger in aging meat is promoting anaerobic conditions, often found in meat in air-tight containers and in ground meat.  Excess moisture also makes meat rot instead of age.  Olson suggests a couple of different ways to age meat safely, one of which is the traditional above-ground technique of hanging the meat in a well-ventilated area away from flies.  The other is to emulate dogs and bury meat at least a foot deep to age the flesh slowly underground.  It's handy to know that in a survival situation, if I killed a deer and had no refrigerator, I could bury big pieces of meat and eat them safely weeks later.

After aging, you'd think the next step would be cooking, but Olson actually eats most of his meat raw to prevent the formation of carcinogens during high-temperature cooking.  Parasites can be a problem with raw meat (especially if you're eating omnivores instead of herbivores), but Olson explains that freezing meat for two weeks kills most parasites.  Of course, you can also cook the meat to destroy most parasites and diseases (short of chronic wasting disease).

Drying hutRather than cooking, Olson dries most of his meat.  Although many traditional cultures smoke meat as they dry it, Olson is concerned about the carcinogenic nature of creosote, so he usually dries his meat smoke-free.  He explains that if you put meat in a well-ventilated, stone hut in a windy place, the food can dry due to the action of wind alone, and I wonder whether you could create your own wind by making a black chimney rise out of a well-ventilated room (similar to the technique some people use to make smells from composting toilets move up and out of human range).  Or you can simply dry your meat the same way you would other foods or clothes --- in a sunny spot away from flies, or in the warm area above your wood stove.

As a final note on alternative meat-eating, Olson does suggest eating some parts of the animal that most of us probably eschew.  He says that livers, lungs, eyeballs, blood, and the fat around the organs of herbivores are all excellent dried.  In general, high-value meats that we often ignore include adrenal glands (high in vitamin C), eyes (high in zinc), bones and soft, velvet antlers (mineral-rich fat), brains, pancreas (high in vitamin K2, which prevents tooth decay), and testicles.

Now, wasn't that a great appetizer for lunch?


This post is part of our Unlearn, Rewild lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:


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Honestly, was all that less work than raising chickens or rabbits?

Talking of "Outside the box meat" I'm reminded of when my mom's dad took my dad's brother hunting for squirrels. My mountain man grandfather built a fire in the woods to cook them, and placed the heads IN the fire. My uncle said that when the brain boiled to a certain point the skulls cracked open. Then my grandfather did what his dad and grandad had always done: once everything was cool enough, he ate the squirrel brains with a spoon out of the skulls.

So my navy-brat uncle said now he would rather starve to death in a forest full of squirrels. XD

Comment by Emily from Bristol Tue Dec 24 13:58:59 2013
I've had fairly good luck with salting birds after slaughter. My housemate and I did up 6 birds (one duck and five geese), salted them, put them in a bucket with a plate and clean stone on top (to keep them under the brine). They've kept for over 3 months so far, in the cellar, and only take a day of soaking before cooking to make the meat palatable.
Comment by Josh Tue Dec 24 14:45:33 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime