Science

Climate change: skippy to the rescue

Fair game? Aussies are being asked to dine on the national icon.
Friday, 8 August, 2008

Skippy could be on more menus following a report that expanding the kangaroo industry would significantly cut greenhouse gases.

A paper in the journal Conservation Letters says reducing cattle and sheep populations and increasing the kangaroo numbers to 175 million by 2020 would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 16 megatonnes, or 3 per cent of Australia's total emissions.

The paper's lead author, George Wilson, says a proposal to reduce sheep and cattle numbers on the rangelands by 30 per cent should be considered.

Dr Wilson is involved with UNSW's Future of Australian Threatened Ecosystems (FATE) project and also runs the consultancy company Australian Wildlife Services.

"Sheep and cattle constitute 11 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions," says Wilson. "Kangaroos, however, produce relatively little methane because they are not ruminants."

UNSW Science Dean, Mike Archer, a long time advocate for sustainably farming Australian bush tucker, believes that kangaroo can be promoted as a means of increasing our health, wealth and happiness.

"Eating more kangaroo has an incredible array of benefits, for our environment, for dietary health and as a tasty red meat," he says. "The soft padded feet of kangaroos are far kinder to the land than the hooves of sheep and cattle, which have caused untold damage and consequent land erosion."

Kangaroos emit one-third as much methane as ruminant animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats, which are responsible for 60 percent of global methane emissions. Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that is a real threat to global warming and climate change.

In the past decade, the proportion of Australians eating kangaroo meat has risen from 51 to 58.5 percent, according to a recent national survey conducted by the FATE program.

Around 15 percent of people are regular consumers of kangaroo meat, eating it four or more times per year, while more than 50 percent of people have tried it (33 percent) or are open to trying it (21 percent).

Prepared for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, the report reveals higher demand for kangaroo meat than for other game, with six percent of households buying kangaroo meat at least monthly.

"Kangaroo is the ultimate free-range food," says UNSW's Peter Ampt, FATE's program manager. Mr Ampt says kangaroo meat consumption in Australia is stymied by factors such as a perceived lack of availability, low product visibility in retail settings, and lack of confidence about how to prepare dishes easily for the table.

The report provides a snapshot of current and potential kangaroo meat consumers and identifies markets for the promising products in which kangaroo meat could be used, especially mince, deli meats and pies.

Media contacts: Peter Ampt - 0421 998 886 or Dan Gaffney - 0411 156 015