The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry regulates the export activities of the kangaroo meat industry by:
- registering processing facilities for export
- overseeing production to ensure food safety, and
- issuing export certification for kangaroo meat products.
The department is also involved in developing and maintaining market access for kangaroo products worldwide. Exporters now have access to more than 60 overseas markets, where they deliver high quality fresh meat cuts to restaurants and dinner tables across the globe.
Australia’s commercial kangaroo industry, which began in 1959, is considered one of the world’s best wild harvest operations. The industry is an important provider of jobs in regional and rural areas, directly employing around 4000 people. Its management goals are based firmly on principles of sustainability.
Kangaroo meat product is sustainably sourced in accordance with quotas which are scientifically set and regularly monitored. Around 3% of Australia’s 50 million kangaroos are used for meat production each year. Only four species of kangaroo are permitted for commercial harvesting for meat export:
- red kangaroo
- eastern grey kangaroo
- western grey kangaroo
- common wallaroo.
These species are widespread and abundant. None are endangered, threatened with extinction or listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) database.
Studies of wild populations have found no long-term impacts resulting from more than 30 years of commercial harvesting. This is due to the use of strict and regulated quotas that are based on scientific survey methods.
State governments administer annual harvest quotas that set the maximum number of kangaroos to be removed from each zone in harvesting areas. Zoning encourages even population control and prevents local depletion.
State management plans are approved by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment before being implemented. Populations are then closely monitored to ensure that any unexpected declines are can be detected and harvest quotas adjusted accordingly.
With a focus on sustainability, harvest quotas have generally been set at around 15-20% of the estimated population species permitted for harvest. However, harvest is generally significantly less than the approved quota—at around 3% of the total kangaroo population—as harvesting is linked to market demand and commercial production capacity. For example in 2014, Queensland used 21% of its annual quota and NSW only 15%. State annual reports record percentages of annual harvest quotas used each year.
Kangaroo meat is an environmentally friendly source of lean protein. Kangaroos are low emitters of methane gas by nature, making them a sustainable choice. Farming development across Australia has led to the introduction of water points and increased grazing area, and has created favourable conditions for kangaroos. Like any animal, when the conditions are right, populations will boom. When there are large populations of kangaroos, they can cause significant damage to the environment. In managed populations, kangaroos cause less destruction to native vegetation, preserving habitat for smaller native species. Kangaroos are soft-footed, which means less damage to soil and vegetation, helping to maintain ground cover and biodiversity of plant species, when in effectively managed populations.
Recognised as a valuable source of protein for thousands of years, kangaroo meat has been consumed by Indigenous Australians since they first arrived on this continent around 40 000 years ago.
Kangaroo meat is high in energy, protein, iron, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins. It is also very low in fat, containing less than 2% fat, making it one of the best sources of lean animal protein.
Kangaroo meat can be used in the same way as traditional red meat. It is also suitable for use in further manufacturing, such as for meat patties, sausages and jerky.
As kangaroos are not farmed animals, they have not been treated with veterinary medicines or pesticides.
Kangaroo meat is carefully managed, from skilled harvest operations to the consumers’ plate.
- Kangaroo meat is sourced from abundant and healthy free-ranging populations. When sourcing kangaroo meat, skilled licenced operators follow government animal welfare regulations and strict quotas.
- Meat is inspected and stored in hygienic facilities under controlled temperatures. It is tested under a government programme to ensure that it is safe and free from residues.
- Meat is again inspected by authorised staff in government approved processing facilities.
- Once at the processors, high quality cuts are selected before being processed, packaged and sealed to ensure product integrity.
- High quality lean kangaroo meat is exported by sea and air around the world.
- Lean kangaroo meat is delivered to supermarkets and restaurants for people to enjoy.