Call to eat local beef, camel penises for China


p22105-Gary-DannBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Camel penises and donkey hides for the China market and a global run on grass fed and organic beef: Bring it on, 2016, says veteran cattle man Gary Dann (at left).
He says 40 years ago he got $10 for donkey hides.
Now they can fetch $200 in China, stripped of their hair and treated to provide a gel that accelerates the healing of women’s reproductive organs after birth.
The country’s abolition of the one-child policy is predictably going to raise demand.
A bowl of tiger penis soup, believed to heighten virility, costs around $400 in China. Mr Dann says his research has revealed that the Chinese will switch to camel penises: “We will eat any private parts,” he quotes his sources.
Given that we have a million camels in Central Australia, half of which can be expected to have penises, Mr Dann could be looking at a $200m market (give or take). That’s not counting the other edible or usable parts of a camel, nor the benefit of saving the world’s endangered tigers.
Somewhat little less exotic opportunities are presented by the skyrocketing demand for natural grass fed and organic beef, says Mr Dann: It’s what The Centre’s pastoralists specialise in. The advantages are culinary as well as health related, but the obstacles are complex.
A big point in favour of local cattlemen: Feedlot animals fed antibiotics to stimulate growth are likely to pass them on to humans who are eating the flesh, to the point of becoming immune to the drugs when they are needed to fight illnesses, says Mr Dann, echoing widespread concerns.
p2255-cattleSecondly, cattle confined to feedlots produce meat that is reliably tender but bland in its taste.
“A cow in a pen walks five meters from a trough filled with feed to one filled with water,” says Alice Springs butcher Gerry Dale, from Larapinta Meats, who specialises in meat from grass fed cattle. “The rest of the time they lie on their bellies.
“Free-ranging cattle in the bush might walk five kilometers to water and then five kilometers back to their grazing spot.”
“And on their way they eat the best grasses and herbs which are absolutely natural,” says Mr Dann. “It could not get any cleaner.”
Several cattle stations in The Centre have undergone, at their expense, certification as organic producers.
“All our water comes from under ground, goes into a tank, into a trough. It’s good, fresh, clean water,” says Mr Dann.
Rivers can be contaminated. A farmer upstream could be using chemicals which, when drunk by cattle, could interfere with the organic status. No such risk of that in The Centre, he says.
At present we have the absurd situation where we send the excellent cattle we’re breeding here, 1500 km to South Australia, for slaughter there or further export, and we import beef that’s no better and mostly inferior, via a 1500 km northbound transport.
All this revolves around the local lack of full-time slaughtering – sorry, the politically correct term these days is processing – facilities in or near Alice Springs.
The old abattoir in Smith Street is long gone, and the Wamboden facility, leased by Mr Dann, some 30 km north-west of town, off the Yuendumu Road, is battling circumstances.
All this suggests greater support from the NT Government would make a big difference.
Chief Minister Adam Giles recently spent $1m on a weekend of burning rubber and fossil fuel, for the Red Centre NATS, something Mr Giles is now trying to justify with highly questionable attendance figure claims. A shot in the arm of this segment of the beef industry would provide a year-round benefit for rural jobs and consumers of beef.
Mr Dann’s sketch of Wamboden illustrates its current precarious position.
The supply of cattle is intermittent, greatly depending on fickle rainfall and resulting feed.
He’s tried to compensate for this by also processing camels who can live in much drier conditions.
He says donkeys can be a good earner as well – see above – and their gene pool could be enhanced by importing male donkeys from Spain. Donkeys can also handle dry conditions.
They and camels would be even more feasible if their supply could be enhanced by Aboriginal enterprises rounding them up, in a multitude of locations throughout The Centre.
A key factor for getting tasty and tender beef is avoiding stress and excess production of adrenaline during the transport and slaughter of the cattle.
The best piece of beef this writer has ever eaten came from a young cow peacefully grazing on Narwietooma, killed instantly with a shot to the head by Chris Connellan, and after dressing, being hung for a couple of days.
p22105-Milner-MeatPeter Nelson, of Milner Meats, (its selection of grass fed beef is pictured) prefers grass fed cattle, but will supply lot fed beef if requested – as most restaurants, for example, do.
Mr Nelson goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid stressing cattle before slaughter.
He raises them on a farm he owns in the south-east of South Australia. From there it is a short distance to the processing facility at Strathalbyn.
When the cattle get there they are kept for a day in a yard with feed and water, allowing them to get over the stress of the transport – albeit very much shorter than 1500 kms.
The carcass is then road-freighted in a chiller truck to Alice Springs for butchering.
Of course, Mr Nelson would switch over to Wamboden in the blink of an eye if it were fully operational: “The best beef is from around Alice Springs, when the country is good,” he says.
“The grass and natural herbs here are even better than most pasture fed cattle are getting elsewhere.”
It’s not easy to determine how much organic beef is sold in Alice Springs by supermarkets.
Coles did not return our calls. Woolworths did but after an exchange of emails we’re still not clear how much beef they are selling in Alice Springs that has been produced from cattle that have been fed additives, such as hormones and antibiotics, nor what the split-up is between grass and grain fed cattle (free-range vs feedlot).
This is part of our email thread on December 24:
NEWS at 11:13: I’m doing a story on beef and I wonder what kind of beef – free range grass or grain (lot) fed, for example – you are selling mostly at your supermarket in Alice Springs. Where does the meat come from? Is there a declaration on your shelf product what additives (if any – such as hormones and antibiotics) have been fed to the animals?
WOOLWORTHS at 12:08: We do not use additives in our beef products. [We provide] a variety of beef products in our supermarkets which all prove popular with our customers. Our own brand beef is sourced from multiple areas around Australia, and we stock a mixture of grass and grain fed depending on the season. I am unable to provide a breakdown by percentage, I am afraid.
NEWS at 13:23:   Thanks for your reply but you misunderstood my questions. Is there a declaration on your shelf product what additives (if any – such as hormones and anti-biotics) have been fed to the animals? Over the year, what are the percentages for grass and grain, respectively?
WOOLWORTHS at 13.35: I’m told that no additives are used. I am unable to provide a breakdown by percentage I am afraid. As I mention, we stock a variety of beef products because our customers demand choice when shopping.
NEWS at 14:27:   My question is not: Is Woolworths putting additives into the beef? Please confirm that what you are saying is this: None of the cattle from which the beef is produced that Woolworth sells have been fed any additives, including hormones and anti-biotics.
WOOLWORTHS at 15:31: I know our own brand Macro grass-fed beef is additive free and is PCAS accredited. We also adopt the MSA grading system for all of our own beef in store. Unfortunately I am unable to source further information for you at this time I am afraid. [We added the links.]
This leaves it unclear what the break-down is of Woolworths’s “own brand Macro grass-fed beef” and any other beef they sell, and what the split-up is between grass fed and feed-lot animals. If Woolworths provide further details we will publish them. We will also report the position of Coles if it is communicated to us.
STOCKYARD PHOTO: These prime cattle are going south because a permanent abattoir isn’t available in The Centre.


  1. What it boils down to is that a huge opportunity exists for a smart operator to come in contract local Property Owners for exclusive supply, then market the product Australia wide, similar to the enormously successful King Island Product.
    Although this is definitely a free enterprise opportunity I agree that Government could enter the fray by presenting the opportunity at trade fairs and economic forums both here and abroad, acting as a marketer and facilitator.
    However I think we’ve all become a little too reliant on government doing things.
    In my view the more government is kept out of business opportunities the better they are likely to run!
    I would like to see us concentrate our energies on encouraging a free enterprise option.
    I am fully aware of a number of local operators who have been thinking along these lines for some time, a little encouragement, a little facilitation now that things are looking so good in the industry may be all that is necessary to fire up a co-operative enterprise.
    I’m certainly willing to do what I can to kick it along, might be a good new year resolution for Centralian pastrolists! This year stop talking about it and get out there and make it happen!

  2. Indonesia and Malaysia and the Middle East are screaming out for dressed camel meat (and milk).
    Of course it would have to be Muslim killed (Halal).
    Instead the government lets contracts to shoot the wild camels and leave their carcasses to rot in the scrub.

  3. The issues you raise have been discussed in this forum continuously over the last several years, David of Katherine (Posted January 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm).
    There have been a number of significant research studies published that provide a whole lot of relevant information and options.
    You could start your reading with this article and its 24 comments here and also have a look here and many other places in between.

  4. Is the camel penis soup a product of milking the camel penis, or cooking the camel penis?

  5. I am aware of around 50 looks at the camel industry at an official level over the years and have struggled with what should be a multi billion dollar industry but unrecognized by Governments.
    Recently the SA Government legitimized, by regulation, farming of camels as an industry. Camel milk is selling in Sydney for around $40 a litre and being supplied from Queensland and WA.
    At lease two potential operators here went unnoticed and unsupported. Another, who has recognized long ago the potential has been met with nothing but stone walls, recently air freighted a load if camels live to China.
    Several years ago I was asked to procure 65000 camels to go to China but unfortunately it fell apart because the buyer could not be guaranteed continuity.
    The need for a multi-species facility has been so obvious for many years but ignored by Governments who have instead funded housing developments on what should have been a prime and public research facility to improve the productivity of the pastoral industry including camels.
    As pointed out repeatedly the opportunity cost of this will be enormous.
    The Old Man Plains facility was a step in the right direction but impossible for the investing public to see.
    Little or no research is being done on upgrading the nutritional value of our native pasture species here to meet the organic demand, and this should have been obvious to government planners.
    The idea should have been to add value to the animals here. The motivation for the camel cull was philosophical and not practical as Senate Estimates reports point out, and that money has now gone.
    We don’t need another inquiry. We need seeding capital from governments for infrastructure and research into both pasture improvement, and efficient transport to multi species processing facilities here.
    The research into rhizobium biology on Acacias to promote the clean organic image is all being done either interstate or overseas and it should be happening at ASRI here and on public display to attract the investment.
    I wrote a report on possible ways to further this industry several years ago but as an outsider it carried no weight.
    I have seen camels transported on low loaders designed for shifting houses, and using a shuttle service with only one prime mover and several trailers.
    They load far more comfortably than on platform trucks, with better utilization of equipment. Having seen huge aggregations of camels gathered to fulfill their mating function following their pheremones which offers an obvious way of mustering them, but no one wants to know.
    That has been common practice in Egypt and Africa for generations where they attract camels by placing urine saturated hay in yards and the camels round themselves up. Much cheaper than helicopters.
    The science has been ignored and I commend Garry for his tenacity in the face of such short sighted policy.

  6. Just a thought, you may need an anglegrinder supplied with every box of camel meat just to sharpen your teeth, Fred.


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