food

Ok yes, it's Skippy. But this is why you should eat it anyway.

We all need protein. Now of course you can get it from lentils and mushrooms, and soy beans and all that sort of jazz, and you can definitely do it deliciously. But for most people, it’s hard to beat good old-fashioned meat. It’s what we evolved with, and to be honest, it’s pretty damn tasty. (The nutritional value is debated – plenty of vegetarians will tell you it’s bad for both our health and our karma, while the carnivores will tell you it’s essential for being a proper person.)

Either way, the fact is we do eat a lot of a meat, and most of it comes from cows.

We eat cows out of habit, basically. Our ancestors brought them over because that’s what they ate at home. Of course Europe is a very different environment to Australia. So they had to set about clearing all the rainforest for grazing space. Still today, making space for cows is the leading cause of deforestation in the world. They messed up the topsoil with their hooves, obliterated the native landscape, and practically drank us to drought. If they were grain fed, they had to eat 5-10 times their meat’s weight in grain, which all had to be grown, fertilized, and harvested.

But the biggest problem with cows is their digestive system, which produces an awful lot of methane. Literally farts and burps. It might seem trivial, but that source alone actually accounts for about 10 per cent of our total national greenhouse gas emissions.

So, cow meat might not be the best way of getting our protein.

Surely there is something else we can do. What doesn’t compromise on the juicy taste and familiarity of beef? Kangaroo, ladies and gentlemen. The ultimate in free-range organic meat. It tastes great, it’s a lean meat so it’s better for you, and it’s a hell of a lot better for the environment.

The key point is that kangaroos are native. This is where they evolved, so they’re perfectly suited to this environment. They don’t need farmers to feed them anything, or give them any water, or clear any forest so they can graze, or do anything for them whatsoever. Their soft paws don’t damage the topsoil the way that cattle hooves do. And perhaps most importantly, their digestive systems don’t produce methane, so their farts and burps aren’t a problem.

Now, in fillet form, you can kind of tell the difference between kangaroo and beef. It’s a bit gamier, and prefers to be cooked rare. It’s hardly the hugest sacrifice, but if someone really doesn’t want to budge, then in mince form, it’s virtually indistinguishable. So for bolognese, for burgers, for burritos, for rissoles or sausages, swap beef over and chuck in some kangaroo and you probably won’t know the difference. In taste that is. In everything else, there’s a massive difference.

Let’s start with price. Beef can be anywhere between $10 and $60 per kilo, depending on how many hormones or chemicals you want inserted along the way, whether it’s grass or grain, organic or free range, or whatever. Kangaroo, guaranteed free-range organic every time, $9-13 a kilo.

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Will you be making the swap?

Health wise, kangaroo has two per cent fat, while beef (fully trimmed), has about six per cent.

Energy wise, it starts to get a complicated in terms of what you measure and how, but one kilo of beef requires about 216,000 Kilojoules (or 60 kWh) of human energy input to produce from birth. Kangaroo requires exactly zero, until they are killed basically. They’re not farmed, they just hang out doing their thing (processing and distribution energy inputs are then comparatively cancelled out with their beef equivalent).

Emissions wise, one kilo of beef produces a staggering thirteen kilograms of CO2 equivalent, while kangaroo, once again, produces about zero.

And then there’s the water. One kilo of beef is estimated to require 5,000 – 20,000 litres of water. You can see why we wince when people throw it out. Kangaroos, of course, just drink what they find.

So there you have it. You can make a significant difference to your personal impact tonight, or the next time you go to the supermarket. And the only thing you need to do, the only habit you need to change, is picking up *this packet* instead of *that one*. It is exactly the same motion - you lean in, bend slightly, extend your arm, pick it up, put it in your trolley. You don’t need to build anything, you don’t need to buy anything, you don’t need to break anything. Just do exactly the same as you would, but with kangaroo mince instead of beef mince.

It seems like a no brainer. I mean we literally have to cull them that’s how easily they grow here.

And yet, kangaroo accounted for only less than one per cent of meat consumption in Australia last year, and obviously even less of global consumption. Only 14.5 per cent of Australians reported eating kangaroo more than four times per year (in 2008) It is exported to over 40 countries, but only to a value of around $140 million. Current laws allow for 10-15 per cent of the population to be harvested, and we are well below that.

What does this all mean? That there’s heaps of room for improvement. There are easy gains to be made. Arguably the easiest in fact. We just swap beef for kangaroo whenever we can and, BOOM, that’s a fair few percentage points off our overall footprint.

Will you be swapping beef for kangaroo? Have you already?

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