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Croc Tail Replacing Oxtail On German Tables

FRANKFURT (dpa) – BSE, or “mad cow disease”, has become such a worry to many German consumers that many are forsaking their traditional beef roasts and turning to more exotic cuts of meat.

In many a restaurant kitchen crocodile tail has already replaced the traditional oxtail, gnu, springbok and even rattlesnake are now landing on customers’ plates.

Orders for emu, crocodile and kangaroo meat, for example, have more than doubled in the last few weeks, reports meat wholesaler Moehring in Offenbach near Frankfurt and boss Jochen Heftrich says his company cannot keep up with demand.

He is impatiently awaiting the next consignment from his importer in Rotterdam who delivers Australian exotics, bison from Canada and crocodile from Zimbabwe twice a week.

Clear favourites are ostrich and emu, which make up over the half of all Moehring’s orders, followed by kangaroo and crocodile. Other exotics are not so popular and only make up about five per cent of the total.

Prices for these specialities are varied. Kangaroo can be bought for seven marks (around 3.5 US dollars) per kilogram, emu steaks cost about eight dollars and croc haunch nine dollars. In comparison rattlesnake is much more expensive at 50 dollars a kilo. A typical rattler weighs in at about 800 grams and is delivered skinned, headless and tailless and rolled up into a coil.

“It looks like a giant bratwurst,” says Jochen Heftrich, describing the light-coloured serpent meat, which test consumers find “chickeny”.

Moehring delivers mostly to restaurants and orders start at 200 to 300 kilos. One such wholesale client is Kangaroos in Frankfurt. Apart from the usual hamburgers and steaks, the discerning customer can order an “Aussie platter” for about 35 dollars, which is enough for two people and contains crocodile, emu and kangaroo, or the emu steak in mango sauce for 14 dollars.

Business of late has been very brisk, says kitchen chef Michael Brand, and the restaurant has been fully booked for ages. More and more restaurants are turning to kangaroo meat and numerous hotels and eateries have enquired of Kangaroos where they get their marsupial meat, which takes slightly of game.

Even private customers ring up Moehring, asking where they can obtain kangaroo or emu meat for a party treat or the Sunday roast. However recommending their own wholesale suppliers is a bit of a problem, according to the company. “Afterwards they can get hold of the meat and there is nothing left for me,” says Jochen Brand. In fact even now it is very difficult to get hold of sufficient stocks.

This problem is shared by department head of the Metro wholesale market in Frankfurt, located in Riederbruch. Metro has been selling ostrich and kangaroo meat for a year now in its branches and sales figures have risen some 25 per cent in the last few weeks.

“Even extra orders cannot cover demand,” according to the company, “we would order more than double we just can’t get the meat.” In addition to the exotic meats, horseflesh has also become more popular in the last weeks.

Fresh ostrich is usually transported by airfreight, the other types of meat deep-frozen and sent by ship which makes it cheaper, according to wholesaler Heftrich. If the other meats were to be airfreighted, then the price would be around five marks per kilo dearer, but customers would appear to be prepared to pay this price. At peak times, Moehring also orders the other cuts of meat by airfreight.

The import of exotic meats like these is not without problem and is subject to the CITES agreement (Committee for the International Trade in Endangered Species). For example, an export and an import permit is required for trade in crocodile meat. The permit must state that the animals were bred for consumption purposes, according to customs authorities in Frankfurt.

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