Producer Profile … Lenah Game Meats
Recently the Hill Street team caught up with Katrina and John Kelly from Lenah Game meats. We talked wallabies, Wuggs, the fact that wallabies emit almost no methane whatsoever 😳 and why that’s important, and what’s on the menu for Christmas lunch
We asked Katrina and John Kelly, owners of Lenah Game Meats, to talk to us about their business. Katrina took us on an educational journey that’s convinced us that we need to eat wallaby at least once a week for so many health and ethical reasons, and not least of all, it’s delicious! We sampled Lenah’s wallaby fillets marinated in lemon myrtle and pepper berry, and they were tender, tasty and restaurant-quality.
Here’s our Q&A:
What do you produce and where do you produce it?
We produce one of nature’s finest meats, Lenah Wallaby. We harvest Bennett’s wallabies from most agricultural regions of the state under strict government licence. From these animals we produce a range of products for restaurants and retailers.
Wallaby meat is tasty, healthy (high protein, low fat), and has environmental benefits. This is because wallabies emit almost no methane. Studies indicate wallaby meat has less than 10% the embedded carbon of beef. From the animal welfare point of view, our professional harvesting of these wild animals is world best practice.
We also produce wild harvested venison, delivering a high-quality product that many people love to eat. Venison is not called the ‘King of Meats’ for nothing! People can “do the world a favour” by eating this agricultural and environmental pest.
And finally, we also wild harvest brush tail possums for human consumption. And guess what! The meat is delightful, but we understand most Tasmanians are a little way off being ready to cook a brushtail possum for dinner.
Mmm, possum pot roast is a concept we’d have to get used to! How did you start in this business?
Lenah was founded in 1993 by John Kelly and Sally Bruen. The original business plan was devised when they both did the Tasmanian Enterprise Workshop in 1992. At the time John was a District Agricultural Adviser with the Department of Primary Industries based at Campbelltown. Wallabies were considered a major agricultural pest and not valued as high quality food. John had a meat science background and quickly recognised the inherent qualities of wallaby meat. After all, the Tasmanian First Peoples had been eating wallaby for 40,000 years! A long journey began, pioneering a whole new industry and changing people’s mindsets.
Tell us about your business today
30 years on, and Lenah Game Meats is a well-known brand in Tasmania. We are very proud to partner with Hill Street Grocer in making our wallaby and venison accessible to home cooks.
We also supply restaurants around the state and retailers in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales.
But we are more than a game meat business now. We are now into footwear fashion! Our goal has always been zero waste – in a bid to achieve this goal we produce Wugg boots, wallaby fur ugg boots. Wallaby fur lends itself to a shoe. Apart from the obvious softness and comfort of the fur, the leather is light and strong and the fur wicks moisture and dissipates heat. RMIT research confirms people don’t sweat in Wuggs like they do in traditional Uggs. We have also just released a slip on Wugg. They’re super cute!
How did you come to work with Hill Street?
Hill Street have THE most beautiful retail stores in Tasmania, and we were absolutely determined they would stock our products. The rest is history.
Oh, thanks guys! What’s your personal favourite Lenah product and why?
Wallaby wings. Well, they aren’t really wings, but the forelegs. Because wallabies don’t use the forelegs to power their movement, the muscles are particularly soft and gelatinous. There is nothing better than slow cooked wallaby wings.
What do you like most about being a producer in Tasmania?
We love Tasmania. We moved here in our early twenties and instantly fell in love with the landscape and the amazing light. And the animals. We are both animal lovers. Tasmania is so fortunate to still have natural areas of bush that support super abundant native wildlife. Where I am from in the SE of South Australia, this is not the case.
What are the challenges?
Life and business are full of challenges. We try not to focus on them, concentrating on solutions and moving forwards!
Our business though has faced more than its fair share of challenges. Pioneering an industry is not for the faint-hearted. Thankfully our Managing Director (my husband John) is very tenacious and courageous.
But perhaps the biggest challenge we faced over the 30 years was changing people’s perceptions about wallaby meat. We have driven a 180-degree attitude shift from “only fit for roo patties or dog food” – to a respected, uniquely Tasmanian high-quality food. It’s an exciting time to be in business.
How would you use your product at Christmas?
I am tossing up between braised, crumbed, and roasted wallaby wings or a wallaby salad. The weather on the day – and our family’s wishes - will determine my decision.
How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?
Christmas is a very special time. We gather with beloved European friends for a Christmas Eve celebration, then relax and have a quiet celebratory day with our three children. It’s a day to pause and reflect. In fact, Christmas Day is only day of the year we don’t feel pressure to work. It is very special.
Is there a recipe that you would like to share with our customers?
Yes. For lots of recipes, head to our website but this is the wallaby salad I will make on Christmas Day if the weather is warm.
Katrina Kelly’s Warm Wallaby Salad
What you'll need:
- 1 500g wallaby fillet packet
- 150g micro salad (or your choice of select salad leaves)
- 600g ripe tomatoes that have been slow-roasted – should yield around 100g
- 1 medium sized fennel bulb, finely sliced
- 200 ml cider
- 300g potatoes, diced into 1cm cubes
- ¾ cup of croutons
- 50g dukkah
- 60-70 mL mustard vinaigrette
How to make it:
- Heat chargrill/barbeque, heat oven to 200°C.
- Lightly coat potatoes in oil, season. Place in the hot oven to roast and colour somewhat. Sauté fennel in oil in a hot pan, hot enough to get some caramelisation while cooking. When almost fully cooked, add the cider and reduce down to a glaze.
- When the cider is in the pan and potatoes almost cooked, put the oiled and seasoned wallaby on the grill, turning to get evenly cooked. It is important that the wallaby is only cooked to medium at the most.
- When wallaby is cooked, put to one side to rest, and construct the salad – this is done by mixing the leaves, tomatoes, potatoes, croutons, fennel and dressing in a large bowl.
- Place in serving bowls, with sliced wallaby on top and sprinkle dukkah over the salad. Serve.
- As there are three hot ingredients being mixed with salad leaves, it is very important that this dish is made and served immediately.