Kangaroo meat

Growing up, most of us were probably obliged to follow a number of rules, of which two of the most popular are: “Don’t feed the animals!” and “Don’t play with your food!” We had only been in Australia for 48 hours and both of those lines were already crossed. What’s more is that, in this case, the “animals” and the “food” were one in the same. Oh yeah, and they were kangaroos.

On our second day in Sydney, TEAN arranged for us to take a trip to the Featherdale Wildlife Park where we got our first (but surely not last) glimpse at Australia’s crazy variety of wildlife. There were snakes; a crocodile; wallaby families; a Tasmanian devil that literally, adorably ran in circles the entire time (the rumors are true!); bats, lizards, and, of course, koalas. But in my opinion, seeing one zoo is like seeing them all. There is still that boundary, that physical separation, which prevents the experience from feeling completely real.

Then we got to the kangaroos. Here, the kangaroos were not behind a gate or locked in a cage, but rather they hopped freely in the open and rested under the shade of the same trees that we did. There were cups of food available to use as peace-offerings as cameras flashed and everyone tried to make a new furry friend. Some kangaroos can grow to over 6 feet tall, but these were little guys and not quite as intimidating. I chatted them up and pat their backs and tried not to think about how strong those huge feet probably were. Finally, I had the proof in my hands to ensure that this was not a dream- I was actually in Australia!

Petting kangaroos

That very night, though, I ate my evidence. It had been a long day in Sydney and our group was treated to a delicious dinner overlooking Darling Harbor. On the menu was a highly-recommended kangaroo fillet and I couldn’t contain my curiosity. It looked like steak and came with some unreal mashed potatoes, so if I didn’t think too hard about it there was no difference to anything I was already used to. And it tasted so good! The only turnoff was that it was cooked rare because kangaroo meat apparently turns very tough if it’s cooked too long. Nevertheless, I didn’t regret it then, I don’t regret it now, and I would honestly eat it again.

Kangaroo on the menu

It seems like it would be heartless- to not only eat a kangaroo but to eat one after playing with them all morning. My initial reaction to the thought was the same. But then I remembered a very critical distinction about what I am doing here. I am not a tourist in Australia, I am living here. A tourist would cringe at eating a kangaroo but an Australian would not. It is a normal part of life here and it is even increasingly encouraged. We have learned that kangaroo meat has a number of benefits including an extremely low fat content and numerous essential vitamins. They are wild animals so there are no worries about the same concerns regarding farm-raised animals, and eating them also helps contain their over-population. As a bonus, kangaroo is relatively inexpensive compared to the price of beef. Did I mention that they taste so good?

Although it took a little bit of a self-pep talk, the entire experience of the day set the bar perfectly for the rest of my time here. On my next trip to the grocery store, I may just have to add something to my list.

Kierstin Darragh is a student at the University of Maryland and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Kierstin is currently studying abroad with TEAN on the Gold Coast, Australia.