Last Updated 19/05/2022.
Australia is known for its unique and very special wildlife. We have quite a selection of native animals, like kangaroo, wallabies, wombats, platypus and echidnas. Many are marsupials, which are a type of mammal. In Australia you will also find native birds including emu and kookaburras. Then there are the non-unique animal residents, such as camels, saltwater crocodiles and sea turtles. But can you eat them?
Many of Australia’s native and imported animals are found on restaurant menus, in supermarkets, and, as above, in pies. You’re also likely to find speciality sausages (snags or bangers) containing these meats.
So should you eat them? Can you eat them? Do they taste good? Which Australian animals can you try on your Australian adventure? You may even be able to take some of these speciality meats home with you as Australian souvenirs. Maybe as biltong.
Australian Animals You Can Eat
Australian food today is typically very western and not that different from what people eat in the UK, US, or parts of Europe. There is also a strong Asian representation in Australia.
If you’re looking for something uniquely Australian to eat, other than lamingtons and fairy bread, you’ll want to look out for these Australian meat animals. Some have been consumed by our native people for millennia.
Although you’ll often see kangaroo meat in restaurants, most Australians aren’t dining on crocodiles and emu every day. But you should be able to find these foods in Australia.
Kangaroo is probably the most common and popular of the native Australian animals eaten today. You will even find kangaroo meat on supermarket shelves.
What does Kangaroo taste like? Kangaroo can taste similar to beef or steak but it has a lower fat content, so cooking kangaroo takes great care. Kangaroo is dark, gamey meat, high in protein and with little fat. If you plan to cook it, treat it like venison. It benefits for a long slow cook in some good red wine, or you can cook kangaroo steaks fast.
You’ll find smoked kangaroo, kangaroo sliced on pizzas, in pies and sausages. Kangabangers, sausages always used to be on our supermarket shelves. I have seen kangaroo mince from time to time along with kangaroo steaks.
Australia exports kangaroo to many countries around the world. This means you may be able to try kangaroo meat outside Australia.
Kangaroos are not endangered in Australia and infact, have to be culled sometimes. You are very likely to see kangaroos around towns and near roads. You’ll almost certainly see them in the bush.
There are several species of kangaroo in Australia and they are the largest of the marsupials. Smaller members of the genus macropus are called wallabies. I’ve never seen wallaby on a menu.
- Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus)
- Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus)
- Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus)
- Antilopine Kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus)
- Common Wallaroo (Macropus robustus)
- Black Wallaroo (Macropus bernadus)
Can you eat crocodile in Australia? Absolutely yes, it’s actually fairly common and crocodile is farmed for meat and skins in the tropical parts of Australia.
Crocodiles are wild animals in Australia, and also tourist attractions, particularly in Far North Queensland and The Northern Territory.
Saltwater crocodiles are not unique to Australia, their range extends into South Asia too. Some crocodiles are even found in the USA. Australia has both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. One of the joys of living in the tropics, is being croc-aware.
Do Australians eat crocodile? Yes, they do, this unusual meat isn’t just a tourist gimmick. You’ll see crocodile meat for sale sometimes, and sometimes crocodile sausages, pies, spring rolls, even smoked crocodile.
What does crocodile meat taste like? Crocodile tastes like wet, soft, slightly fresh-water fish-like, chicken. This is probably because farmed crocodiles are fed chicken. Crocodile is not particularly good to eat, but it’s OK.
Koalas, like the platypus and echidna, are a protected native animal, and harming or killing them could bring you a hefty fine or time in jail. So no, you can’t eat koalas.
How could you eat something with such fluffy ears anyway? Koalas smell bad too, they are not the fluffy koala bears of childhood, they smell bad and have scratchy toenails.
I’ve never heard of Aboriginal peoples eating koala either.
So can you eat platypus? In theory, you can eat them, but you’d be in a lot of trouble if you did. You’ll also need to watch out for the venomous spurs the males are equipped with.
Platypus are not regarded as endangered, but they are protected in all of Australia’s eastern states. Killing a protected species could land you with 6 months in jail or an $11,000 fine. They’re also tiny, there wouldn’t be much meat on one.
I’ve never even heard that Aboriginals traditionally eat platypus.
Platypus lay eggs, so can you eat platypus eggs? Platypus lay small clutches of eggs, only 3 or so, and they’ll all contain embryos. It’s not something I’d want to eat unless I was starving.
Platypus, being a particular type of mammal, a monotreme, they do produce milk for their young. Could you in theory, eat platypus milk? The milk has been studied and found to contain a unique antibacterial protein. This is needed because platypus don’t have teats, the milk is produced on their skin, laying it likely to become contaminated by bacteria.
This special antimicrobial protein is to help the baby platypus with this.
So not only would milking a platypus be very hard, why would you want to eat platypus milk anyway?
The other famous Australian monotreme, the echidna, is also a milk-producing egg layer.
Can you eat echidna? Yes, in theory. Aboriginal peoples regard echidna as good bush meat and it’s said to taste like chicken.
However, echidnas are protected native wildlife. You could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars or end up in jail for killing or harming them. So don’t put echidna on your menu!
Echidnas are monotremes like platypus, so they also produce milk and eggs. Could you eat echidna milk or eggs? Why, when there are perfectly good birds in abundance.
I have more animals to add to this list. The Aboriginal people of Australia have harvested bush meats such as possum, turtle, goana, dugong, fruit bats, yabbies, and snake. Most people in Australia have never tasted these things. Other animals found in Australia, like camel and emu are farmed for meat, but not commonly consumed. If you know of anything interesting about Australian animals for human consumption, let me know in the comments, this is a fascinating subject for me as a zoologist, conservationist, and permaculture farmer.