Cook who served kangaroo meat no longer employed by western Nebraska school

Cook who served kangaroo meat no longer employed by western Nebraska school
Kangaroos in their native Australia. An Omaha chef who has eaten kangaroo meat said it is “dark red, faintly gamey-flavored.” (AUSTRALIA TOURISM BOARD)

The cook who served kangaroo meat to students at a western Nebraska school without telling them no longer is employed by the district.

News Channel Nebraska first reported some students at the junior-senior high in the Potter-Dix district unknowingly ate kangaroo last week when the school’s head cook added it to some chili. He told the school district’s superintendent that he had done so “because of its nutritional value and because it is a very lean meat,” the superintendent, Mike Williams, wrote in a letter to parents.

Williams said the school, which is in Potter, has 87 students in grades 7 through 12. Potter is about 20 miles west of Sidney in the Nebraska Panhandle.

In the letter, dated Wednesday, Williams apologized to parents. He wrote that if foods or ingredients are out of the ordinary, “they should be listed on the menu so that the students and families are aware of what they would be being served.”

In a phone interview Thursday, he said the cook no longer works for Potter-Dix Public Schools.

School cooks are encouraged to expose students to foods they wouldn’t usually come across, said Mary Finnegan, past president of the Nebraska School Nutrition Association and a member of the group’s executive board.

In fact, she said, that exposure is strongly encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education.

But Finnegan, who is food service manager for Boyd County Schools, said she wouldn’t have fed kangaroo meat to school kids without them knowing.

“It surprises me that someone would do that without anyone’s knowledge,” Finnegan said.

Finnegan said most people probably don’t have kangaroo meat on their food-allergy list. But she said some students with sensitive diets would just feel safer not eating something that they have not been tested for.

A mother whose two teenage sons attend the school and ate the chili last week said in a phone interview Thursday that both kids felt sick afterward. Her older son was fine the next day, she said, but the younger one still felt ill over the weekend.

She noted that she couldn’t say for sure that the chili was the reason for her one son’s extended illness.

Parents she has heard from aren’t necessarily mad that the students were fed kangaroo meat, the mother said, “they’re mad that it wasn’t disclosed. They weren’t told, ‘Hey, we’re going to try this, what do you think?’ ”

The mother, who spoke on condition that she not be identified, said she called the company that supplied the kangaroo meat to the school district and was told the district had purchased 20 pounds of it for $9 per pound.

“Potter-Dix school is an amazing school,” she said. “We just don’t like to be blindsided.”

Williams said the meat came from Sysco, a food distributor. Such vendors must meet USDA requirements to sell meat, he said.

Paul Kulik, chef at Le Bouillon in Omaha’s Old Market, said he had eaten kangaroo once in Omaha and once at a tempura restaurant in Osaka, Japan. But he’s never cooked the meat or served it at a restaurant. Kangaroo is “just kind of a red meat, dark red, faintly gamey-flavored meat.”

If they wanted, Kulik said, restaurants could buy kangaroo meat from distributors. But “the fad of exotic meats has sort of subsided.”

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