How 'metro-doodles' are helping keep possum numbers down

There are around 30 million possums in New Zealand.
There are around 30 million possums in New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty

The increased popularity of possum meat in dog food is helping put a dent in the country's possum population.

There are around 30 million of the pests in New Zealand, doing significant damage to native bush and birdlife and costing farmers around $35 million every year in damaged crops, according to Predator Free NZ.

But thanks to Kiwi dogs' growing appetite for possum meat, the battle to control the animal's numbers is now being fought on one more front.

Fond Foods, which makes dog rolls and dried treats, has seen demand for its possum meat increase substantially in recent years.

Last year, New Zealand dogs ate around 100,000kg of the meat - around 70,000 possums - in "Possyum" dog rolls from the company.

General manager Clint Bolderston says with more dogs eating the meat, both dogs and the environment are benefitting.

"Possum is well regarded as a novel protein and it has a significantly higher level of omega 3 and omega 6 than, say, lamb which is generally regarded as one of those main protein sources that has reasonable levels of omega 3 and 6," Bolderston told Magic Talk's Rural Today on Thursday.

"And that's a big benefit for things like eye health, coat health and skin health - so it definitely provides a benefit for by providing some of those natural fatty acids."

He says although the number of possums killed for meat is only a fraction of the total population, "every little bit counts".

"This isn't a major conservation effort, I don't think our 70,000 or 80,000 possums are going to significantly impact the native birdlife and things like that in the bush, but every little bit does count."

Bolderston said although the company has had a "really good anchor in the rural community for the best part of the 50 years we've been around" it has also seen demand for possum products pick up in recent years "with Joe Public in the domestic dog market".

"So we're sort of taking the product from the farm and getting it in front of the guys in Ponsonby for some of those metro-doodles, rather than just your average working dogs."