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Road Kill For Washington Prisons

Prison food has been the subject of jokes and commentary for ages. Given its general low quality and often unidentifiable nature, meat dishes are often referred to as "road kill" or "mystery meat." If Washington state Representative Steve Fuhrman, (R) Kettle Falls, has his way these comments will be true, literally.

Fuhrman has sponsored a bill in the House Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that would overhaul the system of removing dead deer and elk from roads and make them available to state prisons. State law already allows for road kill to be placed on the prison menu and some Washington prisons already do so. The state Department of Transportation is responsible for removing dead animals from the roads. Supposedly the animal must not have been dead more than 4 hours and must be properly inspected and processed by a licensed state processor.

Fuhrman wants the state Department of Wildlife to coordinate pickup and distribution. Whichever agency winds up with the job will have to offer the animal corpses to the DOC.

Given the recent E. Coli outbreak some people question whether serving road killed animals is safe. Gary Plews, of the Dept. of Health's Office of Community Environmental Health Programs said it is safe "as long as it's properly inspected and not too battered." But often it is neither. "Every road kill's a little different... But most of the time it's undergone pretty severe trauma," he said.

Plews said that prisons have been serving road kill "forever, basically." "It's not going to be something you would serve as a steak or a roast." "Most of the time prisoners don't even know its game meat because it's served in stew," Plews said.

Bill Logan of the Washington DOC's Food Service Program says that while some prisons still serve road kill "they're shying away from it a little bit." "There was a big flap at Olympic Clearwater Corrections Center, near Forks about Rudy Stew (as in Rudolph the red nosed reindeer) a few years ago." Logan said the prisoners knew about it and didn't like what some felt were lax standards on serving road kill. "They told me about one deer they brought in there with not a single bone unbroken," Logan recalled. "The truck driver who brought it in must've run over it with all 18 wheels."

Dave Burt, the Clearwater Program Manager says they still serve road kill occasionally, but "there's always something else besides. We operate on a tight budget and I think most prisoners appreciate it."

Fuhrman is holding off on his bill while the matter is being studied.

-Seattle Post Intelligencer

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