Eat A Kangaroo, Save the planet

Run, roo, run! (or you’ll soon be sausage)
Eat kangaroo for a greener future
An Aussie scientist claims that eating kangaroos could massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions

One minute, Skippy is bouncing happily through the Outback, ears flapping, tail flopping, with not a care in the world. The next, he’s heralded as the latest superfood – delicious, nutritious and fabulously low fat – and the natural solution to global warming. Now 20.4 million Australians are being urged to “throw a few kanga bangers on the barbie”.

Thanks to Dr George Wilson, of the Australian Wildlife Services, who has recently urged Australians to arm the country’s most iconic marsupials (on the back of last year’s Greenpeace report), roo roast could soon become a menu staple.

Wilson and Greenpeace claim that Aussies could dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by eating less beef and more of the local wildlife. Removing seven million cattle and 36 million sheep by 2020 and replacing them with 175 million kangaroos could lower national greenhouse gases by three per cent a year, says Dr George Wilson from the University of New South Wales.

Why? It’s all because kangaroos don’t ‘break wind’. Or, to put it rather more scientifically, whereas cows and sheep release vast quantities of methane through belching and flatulence, kangaroos release virtually none.

The report says cutting beef consumption by 20 per cent (and thus the amount of cattle reared) and substituting it with kangaroo steaks, mince, burgers, ribs and so on would reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by a staggering 15 megatons by 2020.

It’s not as mad as it sounds. On top of their impressive personal hygiene, kangaroos make model livestock.They need less food than sheep or cattle, are better adapted to drought and are far less damaging to the fragile topsoil than their sharply-hooved bovine counterparts.

And they don’t taste bad either… With a distinctive gamey flavour, very tender, best brushed with oil and cooked rare to medium rare (to stop it becoming dry and chewy), it looks just like prime roast beef.

None of which, of course, is good news for poor Skippy.

He’s had a bit of a time of it of late. Since 2002, drought has halved the population to 25 million, and already 10 to 12 per cent of those are killed and harvested each year for their skin and meat – shot with high-powered guns between the eyes at night.

But while kangaroo has long been considered an occasional exotic delicacy, eating it on an industrial scale instead of beef or lamb is a novel and controversial idea.

Granted, Aborigines have been happily tucking into kangaroo for 40,000 years – killing them with spears, pulling out the guts, lopping off the feet and tail, quartering, singeing the hair off on the camp fire and drinking the warm blood and fluids from the thorax while they wait for it to cook – but modern diners have struggled to embrace it. Even in today’s less visceral, more vacuum-packed form.

Modern Australians are uncharacteristically sentimental about an animal that has become a national icon and which pops up on the country’s coat of arms (opposite an emu) and on the country’s coins. They claim it just feels wrong – disrespectful, almost – to be tucking into their national emblem.

The kangaroo industry, meanwhile, is doing its best to toughen them up and overcome their squeamishness and two years ago, amid much fanfare, it launched a five-year “eat roo” campaign. There were specialist recipe books (invaluable if you fancied a seared kangaroo salad, smoked fillet of kangaroo with brioche and pear chutney, or maybe a nice bowl of kangaroo tail soup). There were also new products (kangaroo microwave meals, kangaroo kebabs, kangaroo burgers) and a huge drive in supermarkets. Many now have whole sections dedicated to kangaroo meat – steaks, mince, readymade microwave meals, barbecue packs, kanga-bangers, you name it – nestled between the beef and chicken.

There was even a competition to come up with a new name that wouldn’t put diners off their dinner – a sort of equivalent to pork for pig and venison for new deer. Sadly, this not a great success – after 2,700 entries from 41 countries, “australus” was chosen, but was dismissed by restaurateurs as “silly” and “pathetic” and was too similar to a brand of cosmetics (called Australis) to catch on.

Today, kangaroo meat is a £100-million-a-year government-sanctioned industry – in which a Code Of Practice For The Humane Shooting Of Kangaroos specifies the firearms that can be used in the killing, or “harvesting” of kangaroos. It also requires that “all animals be head shot” and sets out procedures for the “humane dispatch of any pouch young”.

But it needs to be put in context. Despite all the hard work, Greenpeace and the kangaroo industry have a long slog ahead. Of the 30 million kilos of kangaroo meat produced each year, Australians eat less than a third – 10 million kilos, as opposed to 70 million of beef – and Australian websites are awash with bloggers who call it “dogfood” or “Aussiehog” and claim they’d “rather eat my mother’s pet cat”.

And the British appear equally reluctant to tuck in. The occasional restaurants feature it here and there as an exotic novelty, but it is far from a staple.

But the rest of Europe, it seems, are mad for it. The French eat it in steaks. The Belgians like a nice bit of fillet. The Germans are partial to a warming tail soup and the Russians are particularly keen on sausages – so keen, in fact, that they eat more kangaroo meat than Australia itself. Kangaroo meat makes up more than half of all Australia’s exports to Russia.

But if kangaroo meat, with its myriad benefits, seems almost too good to be true, animal rights campaigners are rather less excited by it all. They insist that while the Code of Practice says the pouch young, known as “joeys”, can be disposed of by being hit on the head with a water pipe or iron bar until dead, and they are often ripped out of the pouch and left to die.
They insist the killing of kangaroos by hunters with spotlights at night is cruel and that often the shooters don’t manage a clean head shot in the dark.

But are we in Britain missing a trick? Maybe so. Kangaroo meat is low in cholesterol and fat – just two per cent – and high in protein, iron, zinc and conjugated linoleic acid, which reduces blood pressure. It also keeps for ages, because of its low fat content, and will sound exotic if you’re having a dinner party.

It’s enough to put a spring in your step – if you can just forget for a moment that you’re eating poor Skippy.



~ by vwbora25 on 08/17/2008.

One Response to “Eat A Kangaroo, Save the planet”

  1. Hi,
    Greenpeace is not advocating that people eat kangaroo meat.
    The report mentioned above, “Paths to a Low Carbon Future”, was partly funded by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, but was authored independently by Dr Mark Diesendorf of the Sustainability Centre. Not all of the measures in the report are Greenpeace policy and Greenpeace does not advocate eating kangaroo meat.

    We are promoting the Energy [R]evolution and championing the renewable energy solutions to catastrophic climate change. You can learn more about this exciting work here:

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