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In Australia, a National Symbol Will Soon Sizzle on the Barby

July 31, 1993|Christian Science Monitor

It can't be easy to eat your national symbol. But Australians are overcoming their qualms about it. Soon they'll all be throwing "Skippy" on the barby, instead of shrimp.

New South Wales became the fourth state to legalize the selling of kangaroo meat in supermarkets on July 22. It took three attempts in six years to get legislation through state Parliament.

Australians generally regard the native high-hopping marsupial with affection. Skippy was the kangaroo star of a popular TV show in the 1960s and has the same standing in Australian culture that Bambi has in the United States. A 'roo graces the tail of every Qantas jet and shares the Commonwealth emblem with an emu.

But public opinion has shifted from "only feeding it to the dogs to realizing it's the red meat you can eat," says Dave Freudenberger, an ecologist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. At a recent forum promoting kangaroos as a national export, advertisers distributed brochures showing kangaroo steaks and roasts. It was promoted as free of cholesterol, lean, grass-fed and humanely killed.

With many of Australia's natural products, such as wool, finding difficult footing in world markets in the recession, some are seeing great export potential in kangaroo meat and hide. Cliff Dee, president of the Kangaroo Industry, says the industry is worth about $50 million a year but estimates that it could grow to about $250 million.

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