Choose roo this Australia Day - it's good for the environment and you

Media release
24 January 2017

While Australians are urged to chuck some lamb on the barbie this Thursday, two Deakin University researchers are encouraging meat-eaters to consider a native alternative, which offers both environmental and health benefits.

Lamb is spruiked as the multicultural meat but ecologist Dr Euan Ritchie, from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, suggested if we cared about our homeland it made more sense to eat kangaroo and less of other meats.

"Kangaroos place about one-third of the pressure on grazing lands compared with sheep," Dr Ritchie said.

"Hard-hoofed animals like sheep contribute to soil compaction and erosion, and continuing to farm using a European-derived, intensive system is a recipe for further land degradation and environmental collapse, especially with the compounding impacts of climate change.

"Native wildlife like kangaroos affect the environment less than intensively produced livestock do, and thus provide more sustainable options for food production on Australia's rangelands.

"It also makes sense to eat species that are naturally more resilient and able to respond to Australia's boom-and-bust cycles. Kangaroos can forage on our ancient and typically nutrient-poor soils without the need for nutritional supplements, and are physiologically more efficient at conserving water in the prevailing arid and semi-arid conditions."

Dr Ritchie said eating kangaroo could help meet ethical concerns too.

"Wild animals such as kangaroos are killed quickly, without the extended stress associated with industrialised farming, containment, and transportation to abattoirs," he said.

"And by harvesting this sometimes overabundant wild animal, we may be able to reduce their impacts on ecosystems, which include overgrazing."

Dietitian Dr Paige van der Pligt, from Deakin's School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, said kangaroo was a good choice from a nutrition perspective.

"Red meat contains a type of iron called haem iron, which is better absorbed than iron from plant based food," she said.

"Iron is essential to help carry oxygen around the body, for brain and muscle function and to assist energy production and immunity.    

"Kangaroo is an excellent source of iron as well as protein, B vitamins and zinc, which all have important functions in the body."

Dr van der Pligt said that kangaroo was also higher in iron than some other types of meat, lower in total and saturated fat and contained an important fatty acid, omega 3.

"Just make sure you’re marinating your meat before cooking to help it stay moist. This is especially important when you’re cooking lean meat with less fat like kangaroo," she said.

"Regardless of the type of red meat you throw on the barbecue this week, remember that the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend up to 455 grams of cooked lean red meat per week for good health."

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Media release School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

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