New food laws may put exotic meat on the buffalo bill
SHOPPERS who are wild about kangaroo could soon find meats such as bison, buffalo and camel on their supermarket shelves.
While it is legal to eat so-called ”exotic meats”, which also include antelope, alpaca and llama, complex regulations have made commercial production difficult or unviable.
This may be about to change. Food Standards Australia New Zealand will call tomorrow for submissions on a new national standard for the processing of ”wild game and minor species”. The agency said the current ”prescriptive” requirements could be replaced by alternative slaughter and processing methods.
In particular, farmers are expected to call for an end to the requirement for bovine animals such as bison and buffalo to be killed in an abattoir.
Victorian bison farmer John Perry said forcing a temperamental, 1200-kilogram beast on to a truck was onerous enough but the stress of transportation on bison was also more severe than on cattle.
”Transporting these animals for slaughter is not ideal, from a commercial or a welfare point of view,” he said.
”Instead, we should be allowed to shoot them humanely in the field and use a mobile abattoir to process them for sale.”
Mr Perry has 80 bison on his property at Cheshunt, 60 kilometres south of Wangaratta, but is not currently producing any meat for sale.
He is one of fewer than 10 people farming bison in Australia and said regulatory change could help them realise their potential. ”Bison is slightly sweeter and leaner than beef and is becoming incredibly popular in the United States,” he said.
Victorian distributors say the potential for markets in bison, buffalo and camel meats is being stymied by regulations that cause irregular supply.
”There’s a market here for bison but I just can’t get it in,” said Ken Lang of Yarra Valley Game Meats. ”Camel and buffalo are hard to get, too.”
Queenslander Harvey Douglas hopes potential changes to the meat-processing standards could allow him to use his mobile abattoir to process camel meat for domestic use. ”The government’s planning to cull something like 50,000 camels this year and just leave them in the desert to rot,” Mr Douglas said. ”It is just an incredible waste of resources … we should be allowed to process them in the field.”
Camel and kangaroo meats tend to be higher in protein, lower in fat and have a smaller carbon footprint.
Coles and Woolworths have been selling kangaroo meat for more than 10 years and say sales have been growing by up to 25 per cent a year.
Kangaroo was legalised for human consumption in Victoria in 1993 but it remains illegal to commercially harvest kangaroos.
So while Victorian farmers with culling permits can shoot as many as 30,000 kangaroos a year, they are banned from selling the meat.
”They’re currently killing kangaroos and just putting them in a pit, which is crazy given the demand for the meat,” said Nash Cowie, of Wangara Poultry and Game in Kensington.
The Napier Hotel in Fitzroy has been selling kangaroo dishes for 15 years and currently serves up about 100 kilograms a week.
”We get our kangaroo from South Australia but we would love to get it locally, if the quality was right,” manager Guy Lawson said.
The proposed changes to food standards will have no bearing on Victoria’s kangaroo harvesting laws. But a government spokeswoman said it was ”undertaking some preliminary work to assess the feasibility of commercial kangaroo harvesting which occurs in other states”.