While most of us will be tucking into a traditional turkey dinner complete with all the trimmings on December 25th, a couple from Torquay in Devon, will instead be tucking into roadkill.
Driven by a desire to reduce waste, Jim Alexander, 41, has recovered nearly 50 dead animals since scouring the roads for fresh animal corpses every morning – including deer, pheasant, rabbits and even badgers – from roads near his house in 2018 alone.
On December 25 Jim, who butchers the meat at home, will be celebrating with his beauty therapist girlfriend Betina Bradshaw, 54, by serving-up ‘roast venison a la roadkill’ on Christmas Day – despite being branded a ‘serial killer’ by her family.
WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES
Jim Alexander, 41, from Torquay, in Devon, and girlfriend Betina Bradshaw, 54 will eat roadkill on Christmas Day. His interest in sourcing his own food was instilled in him as a child growing up on a farm in the former Czechoslovakia. Spending much of his time tending to the animals, he soon began catching and skinning rabbits, which he would then cook and eat
Jim scours the roads for fresh animal corpses – despite his girlfriend’s family branding him a ‘serial killer.’ Above, a morning’s loot of pheasant and a badger
‘I know people will think it’s unusual but really it just makes sense,’ said Jim.
‘Betina’s family all think I’m a complete weirdo for doing it and think that I’m a serial killer. But actually, I do it because I can’t stand to see the waste of life, and by taking the animals home and eating them I’m at least somehow reducing that waste.’
Self-professed ‘roadkill forager’ Jim, who cooks up everything from Scotch eggs to pasties from his finds, began employing his unusual hunting methods to make the creatures’ deaths ‘less futile.’
And it has led to some rather unusual menus, including dishes like fox and badger.
Jim has collected nearly 50 animals who ended up as roadkill so far this year (some seen left), and butchers the meat himself (seen right after he’s prepared it for cooking)
Jim studied butchery and worked at a slaughterhouse before moving to the UK in 2000. He uses nearly every part of the animal, trading some of it for food and products that he cannot forage for
The self-professed ‘roadkill forager’ Jim cooks up everything from Scotch eggs to pasties from his finds
‘I was quite interested to try them because I know in the past people have eaten those kind of animals,’ explained Jim. ‘But they gave off a pretty terrible smell, because of all the bad things they eat and even my dog had to leave the kitchen.
He added, ‘So, I had to let the meat soak in milk, which neutralises it, and really stew it for a long time to try and get rid of the overpowering taste. ‘Badger tastes very similar to pork, but fox has its own taste, which isn’t particularly nice, so I usually try and mask it with a sauce or jerky.’
JIM’S ROADKILL RECIPES….
Venison scotch eggs
Ground venison meat
Young badger meat
Venison and ale pie
Venison meat chunks
Stock made from boiled venison bones
But a few bad experiences have not been enough to cool Jim’s ardour for experimenting with roadkill, in line with his sustainable lifestyle, which also sees him searching woods near his home for mushrooms and herbs.
‘I only really go to the shop now for things that I can’t find outside like toothpaste and shower gel,’ said Jim, who collects and stores badger fat as an alternative for cooking oil.
‘I have so much meat that I have to store it in freezers. I either feed the excess that I can’t eat to my Czechoslovakian wolfdog pet Baron or trade it for other things that I might not be able to find.
‘It saves me a lot of money and it certainly keeps my dog happy!’
Jim’s interest in sourcing his own food was instilled in him as a child growing up on a farm in the former Czechoslovakia.
Above, he finds more meat than he can eat so seals it and keeps it in a freezer
Jim’s venison pasties are a hit with girlfriend, Betina, who isn’t put off by her partner’s culinary quirks
Jim’s dog Baron is also fed with his roadkill collections – dining on some of the meat Jim considers less palatable for humans
Spending much of his time either tending to the animals or playing in the woods, the young hunter soon began catching and skinning rabbits, which he would then cook and eat.
‘We were very rural,’ he explained. ‘We were the sort of people who never went to the shops. ‘I was five-years-old when I killed my first rabbit. That was the sort of thing we did. It was in my blood.’
A red-blooded lover of meat and two veg, as a teenager he then studied butchery at school, before going on to work in a slaughterhouse in Ireland in the late 1990s for eight months.
Then, keen for a new adventure, at 21, Jim decided to travel around Europe, visiting Germany, France and Ireland eventually ending up in the UK in 2000 and settling in Torquay, after being drawn to its name on a train station schedule.
Jim’s girlfriend, Betina, met the forager in a bar in 2011. She was gradually introduced to eating roadkill as their relationship progressed
While he loved the seaside town, the country ways of his childhood were what inspired him to start foraging roadkill.
‘Working odd jobs around Devon I would drive along the narrow country lanes in my van and often see animals lying by the roads,’ explained the self-professed ‘roadkill forager.’
‘Picking up roadkill isn’t illegal in Britain like it is in other places around the world, so sometimes I’d stop and pick something up if it still looked fresh.’
Soon it became a regular pastime, with Jim discovering the most common places to find deer and pheasants, which had fallen foul of traffic heavy roads.
Jim rarely visits the shops as he is able to find most of his food on the roads and in the woods
‘After a while, I started to think to myself that I should do this seriously and I began looking out for where the deer slept and where they most often crossed the roads,’ said Jim, who judges the freshness of an animal by the smell of its carcass.
Going out each morning in his van before sunrise, to the spots he knew he was most likely to see roadkill, Jim quickly started finding around two or three dead animals each week, which he would take home in black bags, before hanging and butchering them in his shed.
But his hobby is not without its hazards, as several times Jim has been stopped by police officers – whose suspicions were aroused by his twilight activities.
Jim also uses the hides of the animals he finds for trading
‘A few times a police car has pulled over while I’ve been by the side of the road lifting a carcass into my van,’ said Jim.
‘They always look at me a bit strange when I tell them what I’m up to, but once they realise I’m doing nothing wrong they are fine and one even helped me lift an animal into the van.’
The 41-year-old is now such an adept forager, he has a freezer full of roadkill, carefully butchered and labelled with the date when it was found.
‘All the meat I find and eat is just as hygienic as the food you would get in a supermarket,’ explained Jim.
‘There are certain things you have to look out for to make sure it is OK to eat – for example if the collision punctures the gut then it spoils the meat.
‘But otherwise it is nearly always fine, and you can cut away the parts of the animal that were damaged in the crash.’
Jim’s top tips for sourcing safe roadkill
1. Smell the carcass. If it gives off a pungent odour than it is likely that the meat has begun to rot in which case it should not be used.
2. Check the animal’s eyes. If they are clouded then it is likely it has an infection or a disease. It is still edible but you must make sure that you cook it thoroughly.
3. See if there are still fleas in the fur. It is a good sign if there are because it means that the meat is fresh and the body is warm.
4. Make sure that the gut has not been punctured, which would result in digestive fluids and excrement spoiling the meat. You can do this by feeling the ribcage of the animal and checking to see if any bones have been broken that might pierce the gut.
Quick to dispel any accusations that he gets pleasure out of his grisly hobby, Jim insists that he collects the roadkill as a mark of respects for the dead animal.
‘Having worked in a slaughterhouse for so long I just got sick of the killing that goes on in the meat industry,’ he said.
‘I try to explain to people, like Betina’s family, that I’m not a lover of killing, but that I actually hate it.
‘I’m bringing these poor creatures off the road and making good use of them – it’s better than than them just lying there forever.’
Betina, who met Jim in a bar in 2011, recalled being gradually introduced to eating roadkill.
‘It was quite a gradual process for us starting to eat the roadkill,’ she said.
‘The first few times he brought a deer home he told me it was for the dog and then gradually he started introducing the idea that it could be something for us top eat to.’
She added: ‘Obviously you turn your nose up a bit at the start but now it doesn’t bother me at all.
While Betina is happy to eat the roadkill, not everyone in her family agrees. She said: ‘My sister-in-law once really upset him when they called him a psychopath’
‘I quite admire him for it to be honest because it’s very enterprising and he is able to feed us purely on things that he finds.
But while her son is all for their unusual lifestyle choice, not everyone in the family agrees with the foraging.
‘My son, 25, who is a chef thinks it’s great, but other people in my family think it’s a bit odd,’ explained Betina.
‘My sister-in-law once really upset him when they called him a psychopath, not understanding that he’s actually so against the killing that goes on in the food industry that he doesn’t want to be a part of that.’