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Kangaroo: designed for our times

By John Kelly - posted Friday, 13 June 2008

I’m fond of claiming that kangaroo has been the red meat of choice among Australian consumers for some 40,000 years. It’s only in the last 100 years or so that’s there’s been a bit of a hiccup in its marketing program and the kangaroo industry is attempting to turn this around.

I’m also fond of claiming that nothing makes greater environmental wisdom than us, in this land, producing our food from the animals which belong here. It is now widely recognised that doing so delivers considerable direct environmental benefits in our fragile arid rangelands where kangaroos are harvested. These are extremely fragile areas which can support a limited number of grazing animals. Allowing the grazing pressure from all animals to increase is one of the most serious environmental hazards in these rangelands.

Commercial kangaroo harvesting is the only tool currently available to exercise effective control over the kangaroo contribution to total grazing pressure. In its absence, as in Victoria and the Northern Territory, the only two states which don’t have commercial harvesting, kangaroos still get culled to protect agricultural enterprises, but the animals get left on the ground to rot. In this age of increasing world wide food shortages this surely must be something approaching a criminal waste.


Over the past 30 years a significant industry has developed utilising the kangaroo. Initially it focused on pest control for the pastoral industries. However, over the last decade there has been a growing realisation that the kangaroo industry has other significant economic and environmental benefits.

The kangaroo industry currently generates in excess of $200 million a year in income and employs more than 4,000 people. The vast bulk of these jobs are in remote rural communities, many of which would not exist without the industry.

It is a tightly regulated industry. Kangaroo harvesters for example have to complete a TAFE course and pass assessment by two different government authorities before they can get a licence. No other meat industry in the country requires its “slaughtermen” to be that well trained. This delivers an extremely high level of professionalism, with many commentators claiming that kangaroo is probably the most animal welfare-friendly meat available. As the RSPCA has said, “An animal killed instantly within its own environment is under less stress than domestic stock that have been herded, penned, transported etc.”

Thirty years of continual refinement has also lead to the development of extremely sophisticated monitoring mechanisms to ensure the harvest is sustainable. Each state with a commercial harvest is required to maintain and regularly update management plans for their kangaroo populations. Among other things these plans require them to do an annual population survey across the commercial harvest zones, which makes kangaroos one of the few animals on earth, inclusive of humans, subject to such regular and extensive population monitoring. Extensive scrutiny continues to conclude that the harvest delivers no threat to the species itself.

The kangaroo industry delivers one of the most amazing foods in the world. Kangaroo meat is extremely low in fat and half of this fat is poly-unsaturated. But better still it’s also very high in a compound called conjugated linoleic acid which, among other things, actively reduces blood pressure! Kangaroo meat also has a pleasant and slightly addictive flavour: however, it’s a unique feature of kangaroos - which makes their meat probably the most appropriate food for our times - is that they don’t emit methane when they burp. Sheep and cattle do by the tonne and methane is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse warming gas.

So not only can kangaroo meat help reduce blood pressure, but a reliance on it above beef or lamb could also help reduce global warming: apparently it was designed for our times!


So the kangaroo industry turns a shameful waste into a valuable food, which can help reduce blood pressure, which is possibly the most animal welfare friendly protein available, which is also possibly the closest thing we can get to a carbon neutral meat … and which tastes great. Whoever designed this product deserves a pat on the back!

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About the Author

John Kelly is the Executive Officer of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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