JAPANESE diners are developing a taste for kangaroo, helping to drive demand for the Australian product across Asia.
The world’s largest premium kangaroo meat distributor has seen a 400 per cent increase in sales to Japan in the past year and is now sending about 50 tonnes there every month.
South Australian company Macro Meats is also enjoying strong growth in Hong Kong where it sends about 25 tonnes of kangaroo meat each month. Other Asian markets include Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea.
“The good thing about Hong Kong and Japan is they are both trendsetters in Asia,” Managing Director Ray Borda said.
Macro Meats commercialised production of kangaroo in the late 1980s and now processes about 10,000 tonnes of the lean red meat a year for human consumption in more than 30 countries.
Based in the South Australian capital Adelaide, the company has staff working overseas meeting with chefs and distributors and showcasing kangaroo dishes at AusTrade functions.
Borda said it was important to start with high-end restaurants to begin building demand when entering a new market before broadening out to retail so that consumers can prepare it in their homes.
“You’ve got to pick the countries that are looking for premium products and are not looking to just buy on price,” he said.
“Four of five years ago kangaroo was seen as a cheap protein. Now it is a protein that is seen as equivalent to beef but with some added benefits such as high protein, low fat, high iron and omega-3.
Picture: Jacqui Way Photography.
“It is also more exclusive and Asia likes exclusivity – you can get beef from 50 countries around the world but kangaroo is unique to Australia.”
Europe is still Macro Meats’ biggest export market but the company is looking to capitalise on the strong recent gains in Asia by developing a processing plant someplace in the region.
Macro Meats sells about 75 per cent of its kangaroo products in Australia.
Export rules require meat to be shipped from Australia in whole pieces, making it less appealing to the cook-at-home market.
Borda said having an Asian processing plant would allow for expert preparation of ready to cook products that would take demand to the next level.
He said it would likely also help advance the company’s market access application to export kangaroo meat into China, which has been a 12-year process.
“We’re probably six months away from finding a location,” he said.
“It’s a difficult thing because you have to look at their business laws around taxation, labour, foreign investment and it’s a big commitment.
“Once you start value adding products you can start producing shabu-shabu or stir fry strips and that will definitely accelerate demand it further,” he said.
Macro Meats also plans to develop a processing plant in Europe.
There are an estimated 50-60 million kangaroos in Australia. About 2.5 million kangaroos are commercially harvested a year.
Although only found in Australia, kangaroos are one of the most common large wild land mammals on earth.