The director of the sustainability center at University of New South Wales, Australia, has found that cutting Australia's greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2050 will require not just a change in energy, but in cuisine. According to the newspaper The Age, in his report Paths to a Low Carbon Future, Mark Diesendorf notes that cutting back beef consumption by 20 per cent would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 million metric tons on 1990 levels.
"Beef consumption is chosen in this measure because it is responsible for the biggest share of livestock-related methane emissions," it says. "This measure could be reduced by shifting to kangaroo meat and/or lower-meat diets."
This idea was proposed by a couple of Australian scientists/authors, Michael Archer and Bob Beale in their book "Going Native" in 2004.
Having lived in rural Australia, I can say that Kangaroos are much easier on the land than cattle, and they are much smarter. When there's a drought, their reproductive systems go on standby.
Also, they require less water and land per kilogram of meat produced, the meat is 98% fat free, and is relatively disease free as far as human risk goes. This is truly the "lean-green alternative"
I have read some of the more hysterical reporting of this report in recent days and then read the report itself - Dr Diesendorf sensibly raises the issue of beef production in Australia and its generation of methane in the broader and serious context of land clearing.
Land clearing is a significant contributor to Australia's g-gas emissions and he has included it as an area where better land management, including less beef production and consideration of alternatives such as less impactful species such as kangaroos, would make a genuine contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change.
A conversation well worth having.
The problem is, kangaroos aren't domesticated. You can't keep them in pens or on farms, they tend to jump over or kick down fences, and one has to hunt them to harvest them.
The leaness of Kangaroo is an serious health issue unless your diet is supplemented with fats from animals rich and vitamin A and D. Lean meat will deplete the body of these vital nutrients. Hence the Aboriginal penchant for fatty insects, lavae and seafood.
It was observed by Weston A Price that Aboriginal Australians sought out fatty animal foods. Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A Price Foundation reiterates,"They were close observers of nature and knew just when certain animals were at their fattest. For example, kangaroos were fat when the fern leaf wattle was in flower; possums when the apple tree was in bloom. Other signs indicated when the carpet snake, kangaroo rat, mussels, oysters, turtles and eels were fat and at their best.11 Except in times of drought or famine, the Aborigine rejected kangaroos that were too lean - they were not worth carrying back to camp.1 During periods of abundance “animals were slaughtered ruthlessly, and only the best and fattest parts of the killed game were eaten.”7 Favorite foods were fat from the intestines of marsupials and from emus.7 Highly saturated kidney fat from the possum was often eaten raw.5The dugong, a large seagoing mammal, was another source of fat available to natives on the coasts."
Lean meat has never been part of a primitive diet. It should not be part of ours.
Diversity of animal foods is certainly an answer to methane caused by cattle. But are we about to eat snakes, lavae and dugong?
Raw Milk from pasture fed, correctly husbanded ruminants does not degrade the land. See polyface farm and the books of Joel Salatin. Animal farming can be dignified and healing for the soil. To find out about the difference between pasteurised battery milk and real raw milk see realmilk.com.
Joanne: agree with you that a Salatin-style farm seems to be sustainable, but Australia has very few areas with the rainfall or the soils to sustain that kind of intensive husbandry. Kangaroos are highly adapted to our continent's erratic climate. They are far less damaging than cattle or sheep to our already fragile soils, and as urbanmike says, they adjust their fertility to match the conditions.
If you must eat meat in Australia, kangaroos are the right choice. Sure, you have to catch them, but I don't see why that should be a prohibitive factor. If it costs more, fine - we don't have a god-given right to cheap meat.