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Market kangaroo meat better or watch them starve as numbers explode, landholders say

By Aimee Volkofsky and Courtney Fowler, Friday June 16, 2017 - 16:58 EST
Audience submitted image
Kangaroo numbers are becoming unsustainable because professionals need good prices to hunt for meat. - Audience submitted

Landholders in far west New South Wales say if there are not more incentives for professionals to hunt kangaroos their numbers will become unsustainable.

Decent rainfall over summer saw mobs grow and far west roads littered with the roadkill to prove it.

But signs of a dry winter have farmers concerned they will again be competing for feed and the land will not be able to support livestock or native animals.

Garry Hannigan from Churinga Station, an organic lamb operation east of Broken Hill, said he was blown away by kangaroo numbers over the past month.

"Two or three weeks ago we had thousands on here, just moving through, they were here in droves and the amount that are being hit by cars is amazing," he said.

"They're just devouring anything we've got grass wise, they're starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots."

Mr Hannigan said if mobs were left to grow and no rain arrived in coming months, he would expect millions of kangaroos could die of starvation.

"In the next drought kangaroos are going to die by their millions," he said.

Some states have increased the numbers of commercial cull licences available to professional hunters in recent years, but many are not seeing them taken up.

Andrew Wall from Langadoon Station, north east of Broken Hill, said he had a hard time attracting hunters while prices are so low.

"I think last year only three per cent were taken out of the total [allowable cull of kangaroos]," he said.

"If the [meat] prices aren't any good the roo shooters aren't going to come out.

"There's no market at the moment, we're pretty well hamstrung."

"There's one processor in South Australia that takes a lot of roos out of this district. He pretty much sets the [meat] price and if the price isn't good enough for roo shooters to make a living, well they're not going to do it."

Ray Borda, Managing Director of Macro Meats, the world's largest retailer of kangaroo for human consumption, acknowledged the current price was not ideal.

"[Kangaroo is currently] around about two-thirds of the price of most red meats," he said.

"Overseas, where they don't know much about kangaroo, it's probably half price."

2017 the year of Kangaroo meat

Mr Borda said his company was playing the long game to establish a consistent market.

"We're starting at the top end, five star restaurants and we're working down from there," he said.

"It's a start, it's working.

"I think within two to three years, if we keep doing what we're doing and we keep spending the money and trying to make money, the perception [of kangaroo meat] will change.

"It's already changed in Japan, where they've rated it as one of the health food trends for 2017."

He said there was a lot of work to be done educating customers about the complexities of the meat.

"Red kangaroos a bit more mild, a grey is a little bit more robust," he said.

"Once you start to explain to people that there's different breeds, there's different flavours — same as beef where you have your Wagyu, you have your Kobe, you have your Angus — they start to think of it differently."

'Make them worth money'

By way of comparison, the rapid rise of goat prices in recent years has seen what was a pest for graziers suddenly become a valuable commodity.

Station owner Andrew Wall said if kangaroo meat prices improved they would be the new goats of the meat market.

"You make them worth money and we'll look after them," he said.

"Goats wreck the country, they're feral. Kangaroos don't wreck your country, they'll eat your food and drink your water but they don't wreck your country. This is their natural home."

Organic lamb breeder Garry Hannigan said it was time to get creative and think beyond traditional markets.

"I'd dearly love to see someone like World Vision come in put a cannery in Broken Hill and actually utilise this valuable resource we've got to feed the starving people in nations around the world," he said.

"At least it wouldn't go to waste."


© ABC 2017

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