Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jumping Beef

An article from AAP suggests that "Eating kangaroo meat instead of beef will help lower Australia's greenhouse emissions by reducing the numbers of methane-belching cows, according to a study by the University of New South Wales, which suggests a 20 per cent cut in beef production from 1990 levels, the equivalent of 15 million tonnes of methane."

"Beef production is chosen in this measure because it is responsible for the biggest share of livestock-related methane emissions," says the report, Paths to a Low Carbon Future."

Kangaroo meat is healthier than beef, containing less fat and more protein, but is sold as a gourmet food ('game' meat), with the appropriate price tag. It seems that 'jumping beef' is still (after all these years!) a bit of a novelty item in Australia!

Kangaroo farming is much more environmentally friendly than present sheep or cattle farming as roos require less feed, are well-adapted to drought, do not destroy the root systems of native grasses in the way that sheep do, and have much less impact on Australia's fragile topsoils (and let's not forget about that methane!)

Of course the status quo suits the beef and mutton barons very well - under the current culling quotas (not even considering farming), about 2% of Australia's meat production would be roo, if all the animals shot were actually used for meat (most of them are just shot for their skins which are exported to the States and Italy for shoe leather and the remains used as dog food in situ or left to rot). The small amount of meat that makes it to the shops is thus comparatively rare and therefore overpriced.

With the Big Drought we're having, I've sometimes wondered why the sheep and cattle farmers who are forced to chuck it all in and walk away from the farm because most of the stock has died or is so thin it's unsaleable, don't turn to roo farming? It's got a lot to do with legislation, and a bit to do with carefully fostered public perception of roo meat. The stock barons (squattocracy) can bring a fair bit of weight to bear on the legislation; and somebody has been circulating nasty rumours (for a generation or so) about how roo meat is a risk for toxoplasmosis and salmonellosis, and how it's full of nematodes. Roo meat can become infected with Salmonella, but it is not more prone than other meats, as long as the usual hygiene standards and practices are followed; and if any red meat is contaminated with cat faeces, it can transmit toxoplasmosis. About 5% of wild kangaroos carry a nematode, Pelicitus roemeri, in their lower legs, which is quite harmless to humans, but is unsightly...

When I was a kid, and money was a bit tight, we ate a fair bit of rabbit (another threat to the cattle and sheep barons, and funnily enough nowadays another gourmet meat at nearly twice the price of beef per kilo); roo wasn't legal to sell for human consumption in most states until 1993. Still, we got a taste of it occasionally, if someone had a friend who had a friend who'd been out shooting... it was pretty damned good (especially kangaroo tail soup!) I rather like eating meat a few times a week; I'd have no objection to eating kangaroo instead of beef or lamb, except that at its current price, my budget doesn't allow it. Paths To A Low Carbon Future is all very nice and fine, but until they bring the price down (or until beef becomes as expensive as roo, which will probably be in the very near future) I'll just have to stay being environmentally unfriendly and eating farty cow meat.

And before any of my foreign friends point out the obvious - yes, I'd like to go out and hunt it myself, but you need to have a licence to shoot roos, and the gun laws here are tighter than a nun's nasty... and I'm a pathetic shot with a bow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the recipe book at - ?
Hmm. Pepper roo penis...