Kangaroo adds bounce to the British diet

A taste of exotica: Supermarkets stock up as meat-eaters answer the call of the wild
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Supermarkets, butchers and restaurants are stocking a "new" meat which they say is healthier than red meat and chicken - kangaroo. Other new delicacies flooding the market are crocodile, wild boar, buffalo and ostrich.

The Dorset-based Freedown Food Company is Britain's biggest importer of these "new" meats. "We started selling venison two-and-a-half years ago and it grew from there," John Bengue, the company's co-owner said.

"We have been importing kangaroo and crocodile for the past two-and-a- half years. Ostrich is also one of our biggest sellers and we are thinking about importing emu."

"Kangaroo has about one per cent fat compared with chicken which has around 11 per cent fat," he added. "The Australian Heart Foundation has already endorsed it." He said the imported meats came from animals which had had to be culled.

"In the last couple of months, interest has really taken off," the company's other owner, Daniel Russell, said. Among the supermarkets already taking an interest, Asda stocks the ostrich at pounds 9.99 per pound while Tesco charges pounds 6.99 for two five-ounce steaks of buffalo meat.

The Freedown Food Company prices crocodile at pounds 6.95 per pound of fillet and kangaroo at pounds 2.97 per pound of tail and pounds 6.80 per pound of fillet.

Kathryn Williamson, spokeswoman for Asda, said that when the shops started stocking the meats people were unsure of trying them, but the lines were now "selling really well". Tesco spokeswoman, Kelly Murphy, said that in the past few weeks the supermarket's supply of buffalo had been selling out "very quickly".

Graham Bidston, assistant director of the National Association of Meat Traders, sees no reason why the meats should not become popular. "These exotic meats are a bit of luxury but providing there are supplies at an affordable price, there's no reason why they shouldn't be as popular as something like venison.

"In fact, the association had a Sausage of the Year competition the other week and there was a kangaroo sausage in the competition. The butcher was one of 12 finalists from 600 entrants, so maybe it's catching on.".

The finalist concerned, Shirley van der Laan, who runs the Van der Laan continental butcher's in Whitley Bay, Tyne on Wear, said: "The kangaroo sausage sells 20 to 30lb a week which is quite a lot for a small area, and up to 100lb at weekends. We also sell crocodile tails and we used to sell llama, but we had to stop because there wasn't the meat available.

"We had a lady in the other week who refused to buy kangaroo meat because she used to watch Skippy the bush kangaroo on television. Then she ordered venison. We felt like asking her if she had ever seen Bambi, but we didn't."

Restaurants have also been keen to try the meats. Ned Kelly's, the Australian restaurant in Nottingham, only stopped selling kangaroo after animal rights activists complained. "We are thinking of bringing in emu and ostrich instead," Peter Chesters, the manager, said.

The Yang Sing, a Chinese restaurant in Manchester, put crocodile on its menu. Gerry Yeung, the manager, said: "We used crocodile meat from America. The Chinese customers loved it but the supply dried up. Do you know where we can get some? It's difficult to judge if we'll use the other meats but we're not afraid to experiment."

Other chefs were more cautious. Hilary Brown, who cooks and co-owns La Potiniere, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Gullane, Lothian, said: "I'm certainly not going to use them. The British public are more adventurous now than they have ever been but I still don't think we'd put them on our set menu."

Peter Daniel, a chef at Christopher's, the American Bar and Grill in The Strand, London was scathing. "Like most dishes, they catch on for a limited period and then fade away," he said. "I can't see kangaroo being a classic dish of the future. We are pretty flexible here but shark is as far as I would go.I would draw the line before ostrich or crocodile."