Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 11 December 2017

How Ireland's bred its own 'mob' of organic wallabies

Claire Fox

Wallabies. When most Irish people think of this word, the nickname for the Australian rugby team springs to mind. Most wouldn't believe that they are an animal that can be eaten or what's more that a clan of 150 of them are bred on an island off the coast of Dublin. 

Michael Bermingham of The Market Butcher, Rathcoole, Co Dublin told FarmIreland how he noticed animals on Lambay island on flights from Dublin airport and was intrigued to discover what they were. 

"There's two islands off Dublin Bay- Ireland's Eye and Lambay Island. I saw that Lambay Island had animals on it and I was intrigued because of the line of work that I'm in," said the butcher. 

Michael said that he got in touch with the Baring family who own Lambay and he found out that wallabies were bred there. He arranged a visit to the island and secured a 10-year deal to cull three wallabies a month from Lambay. 

There are 150 wallabies on Lambay island. Eight were brought from Dublin Zoo to Lambay in the 1950s. Michael explained that the "better than organic" conditions on the private island mean that wallabies bred there have a certain "wow" factor. 

"It's free from everything on the mainland. It's unsheltered and unshedded and free from pesticides. It's better than organic. There's beef, lamb and venison on the island too and they all bring something wow and different." 

While the uptake of wallaby in Ireland is quite low, Michael has managed to sell it to restaurants abroad and it is even available on some Aer Lingus transatlantic flights. 

"We sent some over to Kitty Fisher's restaurant in London. Its ethos would be to embrace the weird and wonderful. The reaction was super because obviously there's a bigger population footfall of international people in London who would be used to eating the extreme," added Michael. 

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Tastes like venison

Michael said that wallaby is reasonably priced at €10/kg and is similar to game, like venison, in taste. 

"It's very lean and dark and you can only take from its loins and heins. It's like venison. When the carcass comes in it's about 20kg." 

Michael said that they have to be careful to only cull adult wallabies but added that their games' man found the task of culling particularly challenging last month as the creatures are very "clever". 

"They're very clever and these type of wallabies are rock wallabies, so they hide in the rocks amongst the heather and the gorse. It took our games' man three days to cull three wallabies last month." 

Michael added that the fact that Michelin star restaurants and chefs are taking wallaby on board proves how the animal is of a high standard. 

"I've been in the business with Karl Freeman for 27 years and it is challenging but when you see the likes of Derry Clarke and Michelin star restaurants promoting this meat, you know its top quality," explained Michael.

Online Editors