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Australians urged to eat kangaroo

1 October 08 12:51 GMT

An Australian government adviser on climate change has urged Australians to ditch beef and lamb for kangaroo steaks to help save the planet.

Sheep and cows produce a high amount of environmentally unfriendly methane gas through belching and flatulence.

But economist Ross Garnaut noted in a report on global warming that kangaroos produce virtually no methane.

He predicts a change in farming and eating habits with the introduction of a national carbon trading scheme.

In a 600-page study commissioned by the Australian government, Professor Garnaut calls for the agricultural industry to be included in the emissions trading scheme to be set up by 2010.

This would mean landowners would have to buy permits for their greenhouse gas emissions if they go beyond the recommended limits.

Pet food

The higher costs of farming sheep and cattle and their vulnerability to the effects of climate change, including water scarcity, could hasten a transition toward greater production of lower-emitting forms of meat, Prof Garnaut believes.

And he thinks kangaroos, which have a different digestive system to cows and sheep, could hold the key.

"For most of Australia's human history - around 60,000 years - kangaroo was the main source of meat. It could again become important," he said.

Citing a study for the potential of kangaroos to replace other livestock for meat production, he notes that by 2020 beef cattle could be reduced by 7 million and sheep by 36 million.

This would create the opportunity for an increase in kangaroo numbers from 34 million to 240 million in 12 years time.

That amount would be more than enough to replace the lost beef and lamb production, while also being more profitable for farmers as emissions permit prices rise.

While popular in a number of countries, in Australia eating kangaroo - the country's national symbol - is still controversial and the meat is largely used in pet food.

But many health-conscious Australians have been won over by its lean red meat.

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