Exotic meat is a growing market in the Middle East but stringent importation regulations are making it difficult to get hold of.
Dubai's exotic meat trade is a growing industry with importers and chefs registering a steady increase in sales to the region last year.
Some exotic imported items have higher hygiene and safety requirements and are sometimes very hard to source.
However, tough import regulations are making certain varieties of meat difficult to bring in to the country explained Priyanshu Malvi, head chef, Yalumba, Le Méridien Dubai.
"Some exotic imported items have higher hygiene and safety requirements and are sometimes very hard to source," he said.
The most popular imported exotic products include crocodile, kangaroo, ostrich and unusual items such as yabbies, a variety of fresh water cray fish, commented Emirates Culinary Guild member Ingo Maass.
"The demand for these sorts of products has been building up over the years and specialty foods like kangaroo and even crocodile are becoming very popular."
Much of Dubai's exotic supply is sourced from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, where stringent hygiene processes are enforced, explained Le Méridien Dubai's Village Terrace chef Nicolas Tordeurs.
"Certification from the source must be verified by the local municipality in addition to being Halal certified."
"Every country has special regulations to ensure that exotic food is prepared in accordance with the right hygiene standards from the export country to the product destination," added Le Royal Méridien's chef de cuisine of Maya restaurant, Ruben Aguilera.
A charter imposed by exporting countries regulates some exotic items, dictating how much of a specific type of meat is allowed to leave the country every year explained Maass.
"It's very difficult to get our hands on kangaroo because there's a certain season and there are only so many tonnes available for purchase that is allowed to leave Australia each year."
"It's also difficult to get large quantities of meats like crocodile," he added.
The Fairmont Dubai's Exchange Grill was scheduled to offer a new select menu of bison and elk for a promotional winemaker's series of dinners in April, but the original menu was postponed due to "logistics and production related issues", commented The Exchange Grill chef Graham Kruse.
"We hope to offer bison and elk soon and we are in discussion with Canadian suppliers like Rangeland Beef & Bison to source specialty products in future."
The time it takes to import to Dubai and the cost of exotic products are important factors to consider when ordering specialty meats said Maass.
"Exotic animals take a long time to breed and are expensive to feed."
"There's also not much meat production - with crocodiles they only use the tail and there is usually 60-70% wastage, which pushes up the price."
"Most imports of high-end, exotic foods also take time to arrive due to shipping issues," added Kruse.
Exotic meat is a very niche market and so suppliers are limited as to what products they can acquire according to Maass, which makes high quality products difficult to obtain.
"There are only a few suppliers that can bring in alligator, kangaroo and ostrich, which means if you want special products, you have to use the only available channels of purchase."
New initiatives are always difficult to put into practice in Dubai said Maass, who believes that the supply of exotic products to the region will improve in the next few years.
"When you do anything new in Dubai it's quite tricky to get it off the ground and it also tends to be high priced."
"As exotic-themed fare becomes more common in the region, suppliers will have to respond to the market demand," he concluded.
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