I have been in Melbourne over the weekend.
I had the most magnificent meal of Kangaroo Saturday night over-looking the Yarra River. The choice of dish was perhaps influenced by the book I am reading. Michael Archer (Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of NSW) and Bob Beale (journalist) in ‘Going Native’write:
“Why must kangaroo meat – tasty, free range, low-fat, low-cholesterol, disease-free, high protein and environmentally superior as it is – still battle for a respected place at the dinner table?”
Archer and Beale complain that Portugal is the world’s largest producer of Eucalyptus oil (pg12). And that the US was the first nation to domesticate the unique tasty and nourishing Australian native macadamia nut.
Their general thesis that we should do more with our native plants and animals is spot-on.
Archer tells how he once had a pet quoll and suggests that these native animals would make better pets for Australians than cats (pg 267).
The problem is that environmental organizations are generally against the ‘exploitation’ of our native fauna and flora for commercial gain including as pets.
‘Going Native’was published last year by Hodder. I bought my copy for $35 from Dymocks.
Neil Hewett says
Louis Hissink posted May 21, 2005 that as a result of settlers creating extra water wells and bores, the native wildlife population at Wooleen Station had literally exploded, so that environmental damage being done by Roos’ Emu’s etc is significant. On May 31 , Louis posted “Stocking is ~ 2000 sheep instead of 14,000 sheep – a stocking level which is totally uneconomic.
I remember wondering why kangaroos weren’t recognised as the obviously more appropriate livestock – except of course that regulation-dictating mainstream Aussie culture deplores the ingestion of native fauna and particularly if depicted on its coat of arms.
As a self-confessed recalcitrant, I’ve enjoyed gangaru (especially cooked underground) and many other iconic native species that would no doubt infuriate the sensibilities of the supercilious, but only ever under the respectability of traditional custodians.
Louis Hissink says
Sheep are sheep, and easily led.
Kangaroos and Emus are different – ignoring fences which sheep seem unable to comprehend.
One of the reasons that ‘Roos and Emus are not a staple of human diet is that they are too hard to catch, and therefore kill.
Sheep, on the other hand, behave otherwise.
Sheep cannot run as fast as a ‘Roo or Emu. Can you imagine trying to round up a herd of “Roos or Emu’s numbering 5,000 individuals which extant fences could not restrain?
Sheep are easier to manage, and thus formed a significant proportion of the human diet.
A fact not quickly realised is that by the construction of numerous wells and water bores, the European settlers created ideal conditions not only for their sheep but also conditions for the native life. In Arid regions water is paramount, and species spontaneously increase or decrease in number in response to the availibility of that resource, water.
If, therefore, human intervention has increased the amount of water in an arid region, then life itself adapts, and species increase in number.
It does not take much to realise that if we reduce the water supply (via bores etc) that species numbers also reduce. This will restore the environment to a facsimile of its previous state, (never of course returning to it), but then unable to sustain the population depending on it.
There is a small team in WA which has been identifying native woody plants that could be used to produce a range of products when grown in large areas across the wheatbelt. This will, if successful, diversify the economics of agriculture and reintroduce deep-rooted perennial plants back into the landscape. This search process is now also being conducted for the Murray Darling Basin, but I’m not sure of the details.
Oil mallees are making a strong attempt to become the first of these “tree” crops to stand on its own economic feet. While mallees have been harvested for euc oil in Aus for over a century, the Chinese have become a cheaper source over the last decade, using Tasmanian bluegum as the feedstock. Our aim is to undercut the Chinese by applying the principles of mechanised harvesting and bulk handling, combined with superior processing technology and multiple products, to produce euc oil profitably at a fraction of the current price. This should give farmers plenty of economic depth to survive lower prices for the oil as the volume produced increases and current niche markets are flooded.
For mallees alone, it has taken about Au$50 million, both public and private finance, and over a decade of work by many people including about 1,000 farmers, and we might be able to get up onto our knees in the next few years. This is one reason why we aren’t developing lots of new industries based upon our native flora. You will also find that as soon as you look like being successful, you are surrounded by detractors who use politics to cut off your public financial support before you become economically self-supporting. We’re a funny animal.
There are other reasons why we farm only a small number of plants and animals. e.g. grains have to be grown with plants that ripen their seed in unison, the grain has to be held aloft above the crop to facilitate wide header-front harvesting, the grain must not shed readily and so on and on. Wheat, rice etc will remain dominant and wattles will never make it, not because farmers are resistant to change, but because there are only a few species on the planet that meet all the essential criteria.
In livestock, I like kangaroo meat, but if you’re a farmer, the cost of managing an animal like a roo will drive you back to cattle and sheep pretty quickly. This doesn’t mean sustainably harvesting wild populations is a bad thing, I’m all for it, but farming produces most of our food, and emus and roos are probably never going to be domesticated.
Quolls instead of cats? Why not? They have a similarly crazy approach to crossing the road at night, and they’ll attack your chooks if they can find a way into the pen, so if that’s relevant, they should be great pets.
Roger Kalla says
As Jared Diamond has pointed out there are good reasons why humans have selected the dozen or so staple crops out of potentially 1000s of plants that are nutritious and will not kill you right away.
Like wise it is true that there are a few animals that are suited for domestication and the animals found on Old McDonalds farm are pretty much it.
In order to sustain a large human population and the herds of sheep and cattle here in Australia we had to convert the native grasslands to growing these staple crops and for pasture to support the herds of ruminants.
So we are in effect mining our natural resources to sustain our selves.
What are the alternatives? From a technological perspective it makes sense to put our precious irrigation water into pipes but why not consider making large part of our agriculture closed loop?
Could we grow our food and medicines in vats instead of out on the range? Milk can now be produced from isolated mammary glands, orange juice from cultured juice sacs, meat from culture sheets of muscle tissue, essential omega 3 oils from plants grown in tissue culture, vaccines in paste from hydroponically grown tomatoes.
The NASA program recently announced to put a black american woman on Mars (Venus has landed?) in 15 years could be the driving force for the development of new food factories suited for arid climates. Australia could potentially be a big net benefactor of the spin offs from this big leap but only if we make clear what we are likely to get out of it.
My first response is that I like to eat the real thing. And in these days of rising organic food production, and strident opposition to GM (ignoring cottonseed oil for the moment), you would have something of a marketing problem.
Apart from the emotive responses, I guess the future will belong to the cheapest source. Given that a ruminant can use plant material that is indigestible to us and with the help of an on-board fermentation vat convert it to high quality food, it may be difficult to undercut this in economic terms with a high tech method.
Analogy is solar energy – high tech and very expensive – versus bioenergy, which is solar energy captured by common garden variety photosynthesis. The latter is low tech and only about twice the cost of cheap Australian coal.
jennifer marohasy says
I appreciate the comments about kangaroos and emus being difficult to farm, but am also interested why kangaroo meat is either in expensive restaurants as ‘almost haute cuisine’ or in the pet food section at the supermarket?
Graham Finlayson says
Roo’s are not difficult to farm as they are “harvested” by professional shooters. They may shoot for human consumption one night and then for pet food the next…. with not a lot of difference in the handling. So I don’t know why there is such a discrepency in the price range.
Though we eat roo occasionally, I had to ask my wife about the price of roo meat – I just push the trolley. It’s available at Coles and Woolies as human food and it used to be very cheap. Price is now increasing as demand appears to be increasing, but it’s still cheaper than lamb or beef. I’ve heard there’s a growing market in Germany.
If you’re paying a high price for roo, that’s someone else’s successful marketing. Perhaps the WA factor too – I’m informed occasionally when I’m in the east that “it’s a different world over there”. Silly me, there I was thinking it was part of the same nation.
Emu farming almost got onto its feet. It didn’t because an abattoir for emus proved to be too difficult. Missing one little detail is all it takes.
jennifer marohasy says
Queensland’s United Game Processors report prices for kangaroo meat are running at record levels, of 90¢/kg (carcase weight).
The association reports that demand is increasing, from both the pet food industry, and for human consumption.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), kangaroo meat is becoming increasingly popular, with exports expected to increase further in coming years.
DFAT says the industry now exports kangaroo meat to more than 55 countries.
The European Union and Russia are the most important markets, with the US and Asia increasingly important.
SOURCE: MLA market news Top stories
were do you get all of the quolls?
do you breed them?
get back to me please
my name is samantha dinn
nice to meet you
could you send me a pitcher of your quolls
more popular than dogs says
if we are alowed to keep quolls & tasmanian devils as pets we might have a better chance of preserving them as a species. Just like with some of the other native animals that you’re alowed to keep like budgies, cockatiels, native lizards, galahs & native pythons. Unfortunately, most wildlife orginiseations belive the best pet for you is 1 dog that barks all night, that needs 3hrs attention every day, chase’s cars, kills the naighbours chooks, needs walks every day. What a nightmare. native animals are more apropieate for the number off things like your understanding & the most important the environment unlike dogs which don’t help the environment i am saying dogs are nightmares.
hi i would just like to know how much does kangaroo meat cost and where can you buy it?
please reply to me
i need for school
Dana heriot says
meh, good articles, very interesting… what could you say about black cats, how can you get them to respect you 🙂
samantha parsonage says
hey i love the idea that you are looking after quolls, my sister is going to taz to look for the tazmaina tiger get back to me ok bye.