DALLAS – Given all the tainted American beef, Australian camel meat has become hot new import!
Camel meat is healthier than beef – it has more protein and doesn’t contribute to heart disease. And Americans, who just learned that half of their meat supply is “tainted” are looking for new meat to put on their dinner tables. And it looks like camel meat is the way to go.
Jonathan Markum, a camel rancher in Australia, said the increase in demand for camel meat will help reduce a feral camel population in the Australian outback, which has caused serious ecological problems, and will create up to 300 jobs in a place that badly needs them.
“Camel meat is much better than beef…it’s the lesser fat than all the meat kingdom. If you put beef, mutton, kangaroo, emu any meat, then camel meat will be the lesser fat than all of them,” he said.
“Camel is a popular food in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and Australia has the resources to provide meat to people who like it.”
Originally introduced in 1840, mainly from India to provide transport, there are currently more than 1 million feral camels roaming over 3 million square km of outback Australia, breeding at a rate that doubles their population every nine years.
The Australian Federal Government has provided A$19 million ($20 million) over four years to assist in managing feral camels, and a camel culling program began in 2010. The animals cause more than A$10 million a year in damage to fragile outback ecosystems.
“Controlling the numbers decreases the pressure on the landscape in dry conditions and will result in fewer camels dying very cruelly due to starvation, dehydration and trampling,” said Jane Ferguson, Managing Director at Ninti One Limited, a management firm in charge of the Australian Feral Camel Managing Project.
“Commercial camel operations need to be driven by economic considerations and need to address the animal welfare issues associated with mustering and transporting wild camels over large distances.”
Australian camel ranchers outside of Sydney just received permission to develop what will be the largest abattoir in Australia, capable of processing 700,000 camels a year.
This would also include donkey and goat meat destined for the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Thought Americans have started inquiring about donkey meat as well.
Wild camel feeds largely on grasses and could be viewed as a high quality “organic” alternative to purpose farmed stock. Licensed musterers would deliver the animals. “Obviously it’s a good environmental solution and it will bring important employment alternatives to the area,” Port Pirie Mayor Brenton Vanstone said.
And the flavor?
Foodies describes camel meat as similar to beef in the shape and smell, but richer in iron and vitamin C than both beef and lamb.
“The only thing about camel is, if it’s aged it’s a bit chewy,” said Mario Battali, who is thinking of using camel meat at several of his restaurants. “But that’s the same case with an old cow.”