Countries are usually known for certain dishes. If a professor has his way, Australia will be well on its way toward being the go-to location for cane toads. Yes, cane toads. Think fried toad, toad cakes, and toad leg canapés becoming staples alongside fresh produce, seafood, and quality beef.
Philip Hayward from the Southern Cross University is pushing for a regulated toad industry, outlining the health and economic benefits of consuming and exporting cane toads in his latest research paper. He will be presenting his work on including cane toads in Australian cuisine in a regional food conference this month in Byron Bay.
Hayward is no stranger to frogs, having eaten them in Indonesia and Vietnam. However, he does admit that cane toad doesn't quite have a ring to it, conceding that it will have to be extracted, packaged, and called something else to get Australia to consider it seriously.
Aside from being an interesting addition to Australia's list of appetizing treats, the cane toad is also being pursued by Hayward as a substitute for the frog industry, which has experienced a decline in Southeast Asia. Though the industry has slowed down, it doesn't look like it's going to die out, with Indonesia currently exporting more than 4,500 metric tons of frog meat to Luxembourg, Belgium and France.
Are cane toads all that delicious that a man would go to great lengths to have an entire country eat it? According to food blog GULP NT, they taste a little like gamey chicken.
Is Australia's economy in such a bad shape that it would turn to toads for the boost? Not really. In fact, in June, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released official numbers for the country and gross domestic product was the highest for Australia since 2012 for the same month.
Can't cane toads be left alone, then?
Unfortunately, no. There are now over 200 million cane toads in Australia and they're steadily making their way to New South Wales and Western Australia.
Unless the government finds another way to curb their growth, cane toads may just become the next big export from Australia. After all, there's nothing wrong with making money while taking care of a pest problem in the process.
Cane toads are native to South and Central America. They were introduced in Australia back in 1935 as a means of controlling the cane beetle population. The 2-million strong populations of cane toads in the country started out from 102 toads flown in from Hawaii.