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Don’t smoke the camels, eat ‘em!

Eirik Laugerud (second from the front) ponders the camel's position in the Aussie cuisine

Written by Eirik Laugerud

Aussies love their red meat. On the telly, Sam Neill regularly tells us we would all still be running around like monkeys if it hadn’t been for the proteins found in beef and other kinds of red meat. For an outsider like me, then, it is quite the curiosity how conservative and habitual Australians are when it comes to food. There is an abundance of cheap, lean and delicious red meat in this country. But, for a long time a particular type of red meat has been regarded as no good for other use than as pet food. I talk of course about the genuine Australian red meat – the kangaroo. Personally, I love kangaroo meat. Properly prepared and cooked, always rare, there are few dishes that can stand up to Skippy on a barbecue. Now, I’ve learned that Australia have yet another red meat to dish up on the barbie. I have already tasted it, mostly out of curiosity, (in a restaurant in Coober Pedy) and found it to be really good eating.

Northern Territory News reports that a recently published three-year study has found Australia’s camel population to be out of control, counting over a million animals. The environmental consequences of an out of control camel stock in the country’s centre are dire, and there is a need for measures to counter these. The experts behind the report say a good way to bring down and control the camel population is to eat the feral animals.

Eat a camel today

“It’s a beautiful meat. It’s a bit like beef. It’s as lean as lean, it’s an excellent health food,” said report co-author Professor Murray McGregor, an agribusiness lecturer.

“Eat a camel today, I’ve done it,” he said.

It will undoubtedly be interesting to see if people will follow the experts’ encouragement about eating camel meat. Mostly because whenever I have frequented the meat shelves at the local Coles and Safeways, often to pick up a pack of delicious kangaroo, I have never seen anyone else even looking at a pack of this mouthwatering meat. That it is regarded as some kind of second grade meat is nothing short of ludicrous. It’s healthy, excellent tasting, and on the barbecue, I’d choose kangaroo over beef any day.

So, not to be pessimistic, I must say I have my doubts about how much camel Professor McGregor and his co-authors can make Australians eat. As with the kangaroo, there aren’t really any good arguments against eating the slightly off-putting animal. It’s healthy, lean, and most of all environmentally beneficial to eat.

Another slow acceptance process?

I believe it will take a long time and a lot of hard work, both from governments and supermarket chains, in order to make Australians change their habits towards more eco friendly barbecues. Swapping the cow for a camel on the barbecue will relieve stress on the nature that Australians claim they love so much, much in the same way as throwing a kanga steak on the sizzler will. But, for some reason a lot of Aussies fail to see that what they eat and the land they love are hugely inter-related.

My suggestion would be to start a campaign to change people’s attitudes towards these excellent environmentally benign meats that are so readily available in this country. This campaign would have to not only aim to teach people the facts about the hazards of growing camel and kangaroo populations, but also aim to teach people how to prepare and cook their respective meats properly. There is absolutely no good reason not to try a roo or a camel, other than perhaps a bad experience in the past with an overcooked leathery steak, prepared by a drunken backyard barbie chef with no clue on how to cook up a delightful tucker, Aussie style.

Peace.

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