14 January 2008

Kangaroo Meat – Good For You AND the Environment:

Kangaroo meat is one of natures many wonders. I know it sounds a bit bizarre, and if you don’t live in Australia probably very foreign, but the facts remains that Kangaroo meat is an excellent choice of meat. It is both nutritionally beneficial for humans as it as well as being far better for the environment than other livestock, specifically cattle, which is probably the most eaten meat and also happens to cause the most environmental damage. If you are an enlightened citizen and aware of the importance of both your own health and that of the environments then Kangaroo is certainly for you. Admittedly its flavour is rather gamey, but this need not be a barrier to eating it. While many find it a unique flavour at first but then quickly develop a a taste for it.

So why is kangaroo so nutritionally superior to other meats Sam? Well, Firstly kangaroo is an incredibly lean meat by nature (probably has something to do with the fact that kangaroos jump around a lot and eat grass and not grains, therefore not developing excess unneeded fat). However as I mentioned in “"Fats: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly as well as Potentially Life Threatening:” fats aren’t all bad. It’s the saturated and particularly trans fats that we have to avoid. Well almost all products which are in their natural form like fresh vegetables and fruit as well as meat will contain for all intensive purposes absolutely not trans fat. Fats found in natural produce tend to contain only limited amounts of saturated fat and more of the unsaturated fats (poly unsaturated and mono unsaturated), which makes them appropriate for a healthy diet. Many unprocessed animal products however have quite high amounts of saturated fat, and typically far less in the way of mono saturated fats. This also holds true for traditional dairy products.

Some meats such as chicken and turkey are very low in fat by nature. Certain cuts of beef can be lower in fat too, but generally speaking red meats as well as pork have higher amounts of fat than other meats. One great meat source is of course fish. Certain fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines not only contain very low amounts of saturated fat but also contain higher amounts of the healthier unsaturated fats including the now rather famous Omega-3. Omega-3 in itself has been proven to be an exceptionally amazing fatty acid and I have written a whole article entitled “Omega-3: Something Smells Fishy, What’s all the Hype About?”, due to its amazing health benefits.

Now Kangaroo is a particularly interesting meat in that it is both a red meat but also incredibly lean by nature. Not only that but the little fat it does have contains quite a substantial amount of the healthier unsaturated fats. Due to its overall low fat content however Kangaroo can be overcooked easily, and hence be tough. This will take some mastering but once you’ve got the hang of it a Kangaroo steak is treat to behold… or be-eat as the case may be. Obviously Kangaroo meat is an excellent source of protein and has particularly high levels of iron & zinc. It also has practically not cholesterol and contains a healthy fatty acid known as “Conjugated linoleic acid” (CLA). While essentially all of the things about Kangaroo meat are good for you the fact that it contains good amounts of CLA is particularly interesting. Don’t only take my word for it though take the CSIRO’s: http://www.csiro.au/files/mediarelease/mr2004/kangaroofat.htm! The CSIRO site also notes that the interesting thing is not only that Kangaroo’s have high levels of CLA, but so do most grass fed animals.

CLA intake has been shown to help in reducing body-fat and do a host of other beneficial things, even reduce the risk of getting cancer. Allow me to quickly site some references. This site, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11725826?dopt=Abstract, explains how studies have linked CLA intake with lower bodyfat, yet similar bodyweight, hence not only helping humans to lower their body-fat but also increase their muscle mass. Of course the benefits would only be minor but it clearly indicates that Kangaroo is a very healthy choice of meat. Further more as http://www.adsa.org/jointabs/iaafs108.pdf explains:
“Research studies with animal models suggest that CLA reduces the risk of cancers at several sites (mammary tissue, prostrate, gastrointestinal tract, lung, and skin), reduces body fat and enhances growth of lean body mass.”

The same website (http://www.adsa.org/jointabs/iaafs108.pdf) also stresses that animals fed grain products produce less CLA. “Cows grazing on pasture had 500% more CLA content in milk compared with cows fed typical dairy cow diets containing conserved forage and grain in a 50:50 ratio.” It is indeed interesting to wonder whether feeding our primary meat sources (such as cattle) from grains instead of grass (which is what they would be naturally eating) has contributed to our obesity problem both through increasing the fat content in the cows and also through causing other changes such as the drastic drop in CLA found in grain feed cows.

Now if that’s not enough a reason to start eating Kangaroo maybe I should mention that Kangaroo’s cause far less damage to the environment than traditional meat sources such as cattle. See “Vegetarianism From a Different Perspective:” to see just how much a threat to global warming the meat industry alone causes to get an idea of what were comparing here. Firstly, realise that Kangaroos are farmed wild, which is also much more ethical. Secondly, realise that at the moment Australia has a heap of Kangaroos. While certain species are endangered most aren’t, indeed in some areas of Australia they are considered a pest. Hence Kangaroo farming began, more as a way to cull the kangaroo population than anything else. Unfortunately much of the meat has been used in pet foods as I don’t think the market for it is very big. However the market certainly should grow, especially given kangaroo’s wonderful nutritional properties.

Essentially as I argue in “Vegetarianism From a Different Perspective:” , cows create a butt load of methane (pun totally intended, even though I think a lot of it actually comes out their mouths). In contrast Kangaroos don’t, in fact their farts (or whatever you want to call them) are methane free. Hence eating kangaroos encourages fewer cattle to be eaten, which in turn makes for less cattle and reduces the output of deadly green house gasses (in the form of methane from cow farts. For those who don’t know Methane is in fact roughly 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to speeding up global warming). But wait, it gets even stranger! Kangaroo fart happens to be so methane free (due to bacteria in their gut) that scientists are in fact trying to transfer these bacteria to cow’s intestine, essentially to make them fart like kangaroos, i.e. causing less methane. Check out: http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/01/03/scientists-to-make-cows-fart-like-kangaroos/ if you wish to see where I got this information from and be mildly amused.

Kangaroo’s are also in large numbers and its believed that they are fair game (pun again intended) at the minute. Seriously, kangaroo is great stuff. I hope I have at least convinced you to go to the supermarkets and try some. If you need just a little more convincing then I have just one more thing to say. Ironically enough, Kangaroo meat is really rather cheap. In fact it’s typically much cheaper than most other meats! If I recall correctly a kilogram of kangaroo mince at Coles costs you around $7 Australian, while a kilogram of lamb costs you closer to $30.

While Kangaroo meat does have an acquired taste some certainly find it to their liking. Others adapt. It can also be cunningly used in dishes like bolognese where its distinct flavour is blunted by herbs and other ingredients. As I have stated above it is incredibly good for you, indeed it is no doubt the best of all the red meats. The only meat I would rank higher for your health would probably be fish, but given mercury poisoning problems due to ever rising pollution levels even fish can now be quite contaminated. Not only is it good for you however, it is also beneficial for the environment. Lastly its not overpriced either. So go on, have Kangaroo for dinner tonight, after writing all this to persuade you of how good it can be for you its worth at least trying!


Tip Diva said...

What do you think of two other meats coming out of the same neck of the woods - ostrich and emu?

Total Wellbeing said...

To be honest I've never had either ostrich or emu before, but as far as I know they are both quite lean meats. I'm not sure how they compare with Kangaroo in regards to things like CLA and the sorts of fats that they contain, but I did find some information you might find useful:

Emu meat nutritional data

Information about emu farming- it seems they are quite quick to bread and resistant to most diseases, a definite bonus.

Ostrich meat nutritional data

Add to Technorati Favorites