Q: When is a kangaroo not a kangaroo?<br/>A: When it's being served up for dinner

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Australians could soon be tossing a chunk of australus on the barbecue, because of plans to rename kangaroo meat and divorce it from its cuddly Skippy image.

While kangaroo is a lean and delicious red meat, Australians have been squeamish about consuming their national symbol. Most kangaroo meat ends up as pet food, although it is also exported, particularly to Europe, where the Russians love to eat it in sausages.

A food magazine hit on the idea of organising an international competition to come up with a euphemism - akin to beef for cow and venison for deer - to make kangaroo more domestically palatable. Among the suggestions received from 2,700 people in 41 nations were kangasaurus, marsupan, roadkill and jumpmeat.

Mel Nathan, editor of the magazine Food Companion International, told The Sydney Morning Herald that "australus" sounded dignified and linked the meat with its country of provenance. The winning entry was submitted by a US citizen, Steven West, who is employed at a hospitality school in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.

Nearly four million kangaroos are legally culled each year, a figure that brings tears to the eyes of urban Australians. Farmers are less sentimental; they regard the animals as pests that destroy fences and devour crops.

However, some campaigners worry that because the animals live in the heat and dust of the outback, they may carry disease in their meat.

The population is conservatively estimated at 50 million, more than twice the number of humans on the continent.

The $200m (£85m) industry is hoping that the new name will make the kangaroo - which appears together with an emu on the Australian coat of arms and on the tails of Qantas Airways jets - more appealing to diners.

John Kelly, chief executive of the Kangaroo Industry Association, said: "We don't eat cow or pig, why do we eat kangaroo?"

Ms Nathan said the word "inhibits some chefs from using the product because they know people will be put off ordering it". She predicted the new name could herald "a huge breakthrough" for the industry. Australians, though, may not take to it; it was criticised as too long and pompous, and more appropriate for a travel agency.