If You Can't Beat Them, Eat Them?


Camel: it’s what’s for dinner? Fraid so, mate. Aussies are being told that tossing camel steaks on the barbie can reduce global warming and save the fragile ecosystems and water resources of the desert where the wild herd is out of control.

The Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Center released a three-year study of the environmental threat and what to do about it. The scientists observed that the million-plus camel population inflicts major damage on rare plants, animals and indigenous sites. Adding insult to injury, they make climate change worse by emitting greenhouse gases and turning landscapes into desert.

The study has concluded the best way to bring down the quickly multiplying population is to add the one-humped ferals to the human food chain. This comes shortly after the Australian people were encouraged to eat their friend, the kangaroo, to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Just how exotic can the cuisine get?

“It’s a bit like beef – it’s as lean as lean, and it’s an excellent health food,” agribusiness lecturer Murray McGregor tells the New Zealand Herald in his push to cook camel.

Many Persian Gulf countries concur, gobbling up camel kebabs which reportedly resemble filet mignon with a lower fat content. According to ABC News, the Camel Gathering Place, a popular restaurant in Damascus, Syria, sells meat from one camel a week, which is a lot of steak (they weight up to 1,000 pounds). Word has it (and I will just take their word for it) that the hump is the tastiest part; so delicious is the mound of fatty tissue that some people prefer it raw. I know, it’s a bit hard to swallow, but this is what the gourmet camel crowd says.

The camel explosion in Australia dates back to 1840, when the first camel was imported from the Canary islands. Between that year and 1907, a thousand feral dromedary camels were herded into the western outback and used for riding, draft and packing, and exploration. They carried critical goods to new settlements and mines. By 1930, these beasts of burden had done their work and were no longer needed. They bred ferociously across the Northwest Territory, Western and South Australia and into parts of Queensland. Some estimate the population at one million.

The Australian government has allocated $854,000 to control the feral camel problem over the last five years. Now, scientists are cooking up more drastic measures. “If you can’t beat them, eat them,” proposes J.M. Franke in his study: The Invasive Species Cookbook: Conservation Through Gastronomy.

Image: Angeloux

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.