By: Judy Davie
Kangaroo is one of the healthiest meats around. The farming of our native meat has little to no impact on the environment, it's cheap to buy compared to beef and lamb and when you know what to do with it, the taste is delicious. Unfortunately negative perceptions towards this nutritionally valuable meat have slowed down what should be a burgeoning industry, but with increased nutritional awareness, fewer reruns of the TV series Skippy and stringent hygiene measures in place to quash fears of worm and disease infestation, our national symbol will hopefully find its way onto more dinner plates.
Kangaroo for health
Kangaroo meat is lean, low in saturated fat and provides Omega 3 fats and all the essential amino acids necessary for wound repair and cellular growth. It's also a great source of iron and zinc.
For instance, a 150 gram piece of cooked kangaroo equates to 6.3g iron and 5.4g zinc. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron is 12g and zinc is 8g.
Kangaroo meat is one of the best sources of protein available, with the average cut yielding over 98% of total energy from protein and less than 2% of energy from fat. Compared to a lamb steak that's 33% more pure protein and the same amount less saturated fat. It also contains 25% more iron than lamb and similar amounts of zinc.
Studies by Professor Kerin O'Dea, Director of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin have shown that Aborigines returning to a traditional diet, rich in kangaroo meat and plant foods displayed dramatic improvements in diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Professor O'Dea also examined a variety of animal foods and found that that 40% of the fat in kangaroo meat consisted of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) molecules which are believed to improve blood flow, reduce the blood's tendency to clot, and thereby reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Kangaroo is the closest meat to the meat our hunter- gatherer ancestors ate. The animals are reared in their natural habitat with extensive areas to exercise on, hence the kangaroo's low saturated fat content. It also means they are free of antibiotics and hormones. They eat their native diet and exercise far more than their domesticated relatives. As a result, game meat is generally incredibly lean, almost without exception low in saturated fat, a good source of omega-3 fats, high in protein and with none of the concerns surrounding the intensive rearing of farm animals.
The fitter the animal the healthier it is - that applies to humans as well!
Kangaroo and cruelty
Some people are concerned over the cruelty of killing these native animals, however if you eat meat anyway the slaughtering of kangaroo for meat is probably more humane than with domestic animals. Unlike domestic animals, kangaroos are kept in their natural environment and do not suffer the stress of live trucking and abattoirs. Instead they live freely in the wild until they are killed instantly by professional shooters.
Kangaroo and hygiene
Hygiene issues are also a concern for some but given the stringent health measures enforced by the industry there is no real concern there. Quite the contrary, with only 0.7 per cent of kangaroos being rejected for food use after testing (about a third of the number rejected in domestic farm use). This makes sense , as when an animal in the wild gets sick, it dies - compared to domestic usage, whereby the vet is sent round and the animal is fed antibiotics or other medication and the disease remains in the population.
Kangaroo and sustainability
Kangaroo farming is a natural culling process necessary for the environment. After assessing the kangaroo population and the effects of seasonal conditions, the Government sets a sustainable quota to be culled each year - usually around 15- 20% of the population. Since the arrival of Europeans, kangaroos have thrived because of increased grasslands, better water supply through dams and bores and reduced dingo numbers, the kangaroo's main predator. Kangaroo numbers are so great that some farmers consider the animals a pest. Ironically, the industry that was established to control kangaroo numbers has only succeeded in taking a sustainable yield, despite killing up to 20% of the total population in certain years. The kangaroo meat industry only harvests non-endangered species.
How the industry is managed
A set number of plastic tags are issued by the Government and bought by licensed harvesters. This ensures no more than the set quota of animals are harvested each year. It's a strictly monitored process to protect the sustainability of the species and the safety the meat.
The RSPCA has described Kangaroo harvesting as "one of the most humane methods of animal slaughter possible".
Kangaroo and cost
It's cheap! At $18.69 a kilo compared with $30.00 for beef and $23.00 a kilo for lamb it's an inexpensive and healthier alternative.
Don't salt it - being lean it can be dry and salt will draw out natural moisture making it even drier - instead use soy sauce or tamari or add salty flavours such as capers.
Being an inexpensive meat you can afford to buy the best cuts such as strip loin, fillet and rump. These can all be pan fried, BBQ'd and grilled. Secondary cuts such as minced and diced kangaroo are best slow cooked.
Young meat will have less of a gamey flavour compared to aged meat. It you don't like the gamey taste buy frozen kangaroo as the freezing stops the aging process.
How to cook
Heat a saucepan and add oil - macadamia is good as it has a high smoke point.
Cook for 3 - 5 minutes each side then cover the pan with foil and rest for 5 minutes. Never overcook or it will become tough. Slice it across the grain.
For recipes and tips, visit The Food Coach Recipe Database
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