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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 06:40 GMT
Kangaroo meat boom
Butcher at London's main meat market, Smithfield
Traditional butchers have seen demand slump
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

Demand for Australian kangaroo meat has surged in parts of Europe in the wake of the foot and mouth epidemic.

The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia is predicting a rise of 20% in sales as Foot and Mouth disease and mad cow disease, or BSE, affect stocks of traditional meat supplies.

"Orders are coming from right across Europe but it is our traditional markets of Germany, Belgium, Denmark and France that are buying the most," said the association's development manager, John Kelly.

Demand for kangaroo meat has increased, especially for input into sausages and so on for its low fat content

Peter Amey, Australian Trade Commission

Kangaroo meat is exported to more than 30 countries but Europe remains the largest market, taking about 80% of the total.

Australian trade representatives say a number of countries in the region are looking for alternatives to meat usually imported from the European Union.

"One of the side issues in the foot and mouth crisis is that the demand for kangaroo meat has increased, especially for input into sausages and so on for its low fat content," said the Australian Trade Commission's European Manager, Peter Amey.

Healthy alternative

The meat is a low-fat red meat with a strong game taste, high in iron and protein.

Sydney chef Paul Allen said it is one of the healthiest dishes available.

"The leanness makes Kangaroo very healthy but you've got to prepare it with great care.

"Overcook it and it is ruined, but get it right and it is a dream."

Shopper at a British supermarket
British shoppers: Keen to try an exotic alternative

Australia is home to 48 species of kangaroo but only four are harvested on a commercial basis.

More than two million animals are killed every year destined for dinner tables around the world.

The industry says that if kangaroo numbers were left unchecked the economic damage inflicted on crops and the environmental could be devastating.

The industry has faced its fair share of problems in the past.

A report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claimed that at least 15% of kangaroos killed commercially die inhumanely.

Wildlife campaigners believe the meat is not as safe and healthy as the exporters have claimed as kangaroos can carry potentially harmful parasites.

Quarantine tightened

Meanwhile, Australia has puts in place strict new quarantine measures to try to protect itself from foot and mouth disease.

Officers from Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service at Sydney airport
Inspectors seize goods at Sydney airport

Animal products, including meat, dairy and leather from the affected areas have all been banned.

More X-ray machines are being installed at international airports and special check introduced on passengers from Britain and France.

Three teams of sniffer dogs are being sent to international postal centres to sift through mail sent from overseas.

The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service has said it will review the restrictions, assessing the threat daily.

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | Europe
World moves to contain disease
15 Mar 01 | UK
Animals face mass cull
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