Beef is bad; Skippy is better

7 08 2008

© AWBC

One for the ‘potential‘ list – George Wilson and Melanie Edwards of Australian Wildlife Services have just published a paper in the Early View section of Conservation Letters entitled Native wildlife on rangelands to minimize methane and produce lower-emission meat: kangaroos versus livestock.I am particularly moved by this one for several reasons: (1) it is one of the first really good policy pieces on why we should be eating more kangaroos and fewer sheep and cattle in Australia, (2) it moves past the ridiculous welfare issues that have prevented people from embracing kangaroo harvest in this country, (3) it provides an excellent model for reducing our reliance on non-native livestock for protein worldwide, (4) I love eating macropods (flavour, nutritional value, tenderness – see basic cooking instructions below), and (4) I was responsible for editing the manuscript for publication in Conservation Letters.

Hard-hoofed livestock pastoralism has been the economic backbone of Australia since Europeans first managed to scratch out a living on this harsh land. It has always been a bit of a battle raising largely European-adapted livestock (cattle, sheep, goats) on the driest inhabited continent in the world, but the innovative and persevering Australian cocky has managed to pull it off. However, such livestock pastoralism has been implicated in the extinction of at least 20 mammal species and threatens around 25 % of the plant species listed as endangered in Australia (Wilson & Edwards 2008). It’s also becoming more difficult to raise water-thirsty livestock as our rainfall dwindles with climate change.

Now as Wilson and Edwards point out, there are many carbon-related benefits for switching our protein dependency to kangaroos. The kangaroo’s gut fermentation system produces vastly lower amounts of methane (one of the nasty greenhouse gases responsible for heating up the atmosphere) than livestock rumination, so raising more kangaroos instead of livestock makes good environmental and economic sense under existing and proposed carbon-trading markets.

More from the biodiversity conservation angle, if more Australians replaced at least one meal per week with kangaroo meat (many Australians do not eat kangaroo because it was associated with the diet of poorer immigrants and ex-convicts in our early history; others shun it for iconic or welfare reasons [even though they wouldn't question tucking into a good beef steak or lamb chop]; one often finds kangaroo meat next to or only in the pet meat section of your average supermarket!), our rangelands would be much better off in the long run. In fact, it makes good environmental sense to eat some of the many feral animals that also abound in Australia – feral goats, camels, deer and rabbits. They’re tasty, generally contain less fat than beef or lamb, and a reduction in their population density will have enormous benefits for Australia’s fragile environment. Go on! Eat a roo or a feral today!

CJA Bradshaw

P.S. Just for the uninitiated in the fine art of macropod cuisine, the following points may help you make the switch:

  • Make sure you dry your cut of meat well prior to cooking (an effective way is to remove it from the plastic covering, dry off both sides with some paper towel, and then place on a plate in the fridge for a couple of hours and cover with a clean tea towel)
  • prepare a marinade of red wine, a touch of vinegar, a little olive oil, some treacle, a bay leaf, and a little pepper and salt and soak the meat overnight (preferably), or at least for a couple of hours prior to cooking
  • I get the best results using a very hot barbecue grill – heat for a good 20 minutes prior to cooking.
  • Cook the meat quickly on high heat (2-4 minutes on each side, maximum). Only turn once.
  • Place the cooked meat on a clean plate and cover with aluminium foil for at least 5 minutes
  • Slice the rested meat into thin pieces and enjoy with your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon!

 

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© Mike Lester, Rome News-Tribune


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13 responses

12 03 2013
Brave new green world: biodiversity’s response to Australia’s carbon economy | ConservationBytes.com

[...] grazing pressure, are the most likely to have any real biodiversity benefits. If we ever manage to get off the cow and sheep fix and farm kangaroos instead, our overall methane reductions would be substantial, and the benefits to the rangelands [...]

22 03 2012
Eat a feral a week « ConservationBytes.com

[...] perhaps the increased demand would fuel more culling. A corollary would be that we’d need to eat fewer sheep and cattle, which improve our [...]

10 11 2011
Sustainable kangaroo harvests « ConservationBytes.com

[...] I first started this blog back in 2008, I extolled the conservation virtues of eating kangaroos over cattle and sheep. Now I want to put my academic money where my mouth is, and do some kangaroo harvest [...]

26 06 2009
vego

easiest of all avoid eating meat of any kind! a cursory investigation of any conversion of plant protein to animal protein will indicate that there is a greater carbon/nitrogen loss to the atmosphere than simple consumption of plant protein.

by all means go back to hunting protein “on the hoof” if the craving for meat proves too strong – it is livestock farming for this purpose that causes the imbalances.

8 11 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Two more relevant pieces on this article:

1. A comment by G. Russell – Comment on Wilson and Edwards’ proposal for low-emission meat
2. A response by G. Wilson & M. Edwards – Kangaroos and greenhouse gases: Response to Russell

Both comments are published online in Conservation Letters.

2 10 2008
Corey Bradshaw

More recent coverage here with the release of the Garnaut report:

http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/eating_kangaroos_could_help_fight_global_warming_scientist_558893

Poor, poor farmers. They want their meat and eat it too. I’m afraid they’ll have little choice but to consider rather drastic alternatives in the very near future. The time of the cow, sheep and pig in Australia are rapidly coming to a close.

25 08 2008
Baraza » Eat skippy save the climate - because roo’s don’t pass wind

[...] The Australian wildlife protection council warns that “Australia has no culture for the eating of kangaroo meat. It was eaten during the starving tomes of early white settlement but was considered a poor substitute for beef, sheep meats, pork and chicken”  another Australian, Corey Bradshaw, says” Beef is bad but skippy is better”. [...]

14 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

More information and discussion related to this topic can be found at BraveNewClimate.com by clicking here.

CJA Bradshaw

11 08 2008
david

I hope you are right!
I’m a kiwi myself (human variety), but hope to give kangaroo a shot some day.

8 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Thank you, David. Good points – I believe though we have opportunities to make money here, and that’s always a good driving force. Beef and lamb will continue to rise in price, especially after carbon-trading kicks in. I suspect that the economic incentives to switch to kangaroo will outweigh the current financial interests maintaining the livestock industry we know.

CJA Bradshaw

8 08 2008
david

It makes enough good sense, but actually getting anything to change seems tough.

A part-funded Greenpeace study last year also suggested switching to Kangaroo would be a Good Thing, but Greenpeace turned around and distanced themselves from the suggestion (I’ll not speculate on the reasons why). Like it or not, some people do seem to think Greenpeace has credibility on environmental issues… If it’s possible to pursue the Kangaroo switch avenue without groups like Greenpeace, then by all means that would be the way to go…

But it’s not just getting people to jump on board, or (in the case of Greenpeace) to stay out of the way. You’ve also got people with vested interests in beef production. Hundreds and thousands of tonnes of it are shipped to Japan each year for goodness knows what kind of profits. Even if the Japanese are happy to eat low-fat Kangaroo instead of beef, challenging this status quo will meet resistance from those who are rolling around in the cash.

8 08 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Some recent media attention on this paper:

Put roo on the menu or rue the day (Sydney Morning Herald; Canberra Times)
Farm ‘roos to save planet: researchers (Sydney Morning Herald)
Kangaroo farming would cut greenhouse gases: study (Reuters UK; Reuters; Business Spectator; Times of India)
Kangaroos could play key role in climate change (ABC – The World Today)
Roo meat the key to cutting greenhouses emissions, expert says (ABC Online)
Kangaroos greenhouse emissions better than cattle (ABC The Science Show)
Australian study finds farming kangaroos lowers greenhouse gases (The Tech Herald)
Australians say eating kangaroos will save the world (The Times)
I’ll Have the Marsupial of the Day (Grist Magazine)
Eat kangaroos to save the planet, say scientists (Telegraph)
An ecological leap of faith – eat kangaroo to save world (The Scotsman)
Kangaroo Courtship: Australia’s Latest Plan to Fight Global Warming (Wall Street Journal Blog)
Kangaroos Can Save The Planet (Glasgow Daily Record)
Go green .. eat Skippy (UK Mirror)
Farm kangaroos, save planet (South Africa Daily Dispatch Online)
Eat kangaroo to ‘save the planet’ (BBC News)
Kangaroos could save the world… (Shanghai Daily)
Scientist: Switch from beef to kangaroo (Boston.com Green Blog)
Eating kangaroos can save the world from global warming! (Newstrack India)

CJA Bradshaw

7 08 2008
mseyfang

So, you guys reckon that humans/industry are the #1 culprit in the C02/Greenhouse debacle. Your wonderful cattle-lytic converter image reminds me of a podcast I heard from Stephen Lincoln:

http://www.adelaide.edu.au/lifeimpactresearch/researchtuesday/slincoln.html

In which the cow/methane contribution was introduced to me. Since hearing that podcast and others on the huge amounts of water that go into the production of beef, I have been thinking a lot about my protein intake and now think I will order ‘skippy’ more often when dining out. Got any suggestions to help me with my milk/dairy addictions?

Something else I heard on a nature.com podcast was the impact of beetles on nasty emissions. Would value your response to this article:

http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0805/full/climate.2008.35.html

Cheers and keep up the great work.
Fang – Mike Seyfang

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