Even when it became legal to sell kangaroo meat in South Australia this local game was slow to find its way onto menus. In 1993-4, because of the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of trade between the Australian States, it became legal to sell kangaroo meat for human consumption throughout Australia. Many conservationists still oppose its use.
For most of the 20th century it was illegal to sell kangaroo meat for human consumption, although it was regularly used in pet food. It has always been a staple of Aboriginal diets and until around the 1890s white Australians, especially in the bush, were not averse to a bit of native game to supplement their mutton and potatoes.
Legislation changed in South Australia in 1980 and in 1993 sale of kangaroo was legalised in New South Wales. In that year mutual recognition legislation came into force, dictating that products allowable for sale in one State cannot be disallowed in another.
All kangaroo meat is wild harvested and the harvesting is strictly regulated by the state and federal governments. Many argue that eating kangaroo meat is more sustainable than eating farmed red meats, as kangaroos have less impact on the environment. The species harvested are not regarded as endangered. Kangaroos also produce far less methane than cattle.
Kangaroo is also claimed to be healthier that other red meats, owning to its low percentage of fat. However some have concerns about the ethics of wild harvesting, claiming that it is inhumane. Advocates of the industry claim that shooters are skilled specialists and the animals are spared the stress incurred by domesticated animals both in their rearing at at slaughterhouses.
The meat is now regularly found in supermarkets. It is difficult to cook well, mainly because of the lack of fat. Kangaroo needs to be cooked quickly on a high heat as it will be chewy if underdone and tough if over-cooked.
Kangaroo meat is now exported to over 40 countries worldwide, with the industry saying it’s worth an estimated $150 million annually. Here in Australia, many of us still have a sentimental reason for avoiding it. After all, who wants to eat Skippy?