Possum on the menu for pets
A pet-food company which includes possum among the products it exports has just completed a multimillion-dollar upgrade of its Te Puke factory and intends to increase sales in this country.
Singaporean-owned Addiction Foods chief executive Jerel Kwek said possum was an alternative for dogs and cats that were allergic to other protein sources.
He believed his company was the first in the world to export possum meat products, which it did in canned and raw dehydrated form for dogs and cats. New dry-food possum lines were also being developed.
The company probably used about 100 tonnes of possums a year. Assuming each animal weighed about 2 kilograms, that would indicate the company went through about 50,000 possums a year. Possum use was growing by about 20 per cent a year.
Dogs and cats could become allergic to a particular protein source if they ate it over time, Kwek said.
"By giving them a protein they have never been exposed to before, like possum, then they don't have the food allergy any more."
Possum was also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which were anti-inflammatory.
The possums - mostly caught in the North Island - were bought from hunters in line with a risk-management programme developed for the Ministry for Primary Industries which showed the animals were safe from pesticides and tuberculosis, Kwek said.
Possum pelts were also exported and used in a range of products including scarves and the filling for duvets.
The possum products supplied a niche market, with the vast majority of the company's range made from New Zealand beef, lamb, venison, chicken and salmon.
About 99 per cent of the company's products were exported, but it wanted to raise awareness and sales in this country.