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Ostrich and Emu: ..ostriches
The Exotic, Versatile and Healthy Red Meat

Once sought primarily for their plumage and hide, the two largest species of birds in the world are now providing chefs with a source of exotic and healthy red meat.

Ostriches and emus, both members of the ratite family of flightless birds, have become increasingly popular with American livestock breeders. Ostriches, which are native to Africa, can reach 6 feet and 300 pounds, with the Australian-native emus averaging about half that size and weight.

Ostriches were first commercially domesticated in the mid-19th century in South Africa, where all farming and research information related to the birds was closely guarded from the rest of the world.

In recent years, the red meat of the ostrich and emu has emerged on the international culinary scene, offering chefs a unique combination of flavor, versatility, and texture and low fat content. while the most common response is that the meat tastes like beef, chefs find that the meat has a great ability to accept spices and recipes.

Lower in fat than skinless chicken, ostrich and emu meat are higher in protein than poultry. With 40 percent less fat than beef, a quarter-pound burger of ostrich meat contains less than 3 grams of fat. Ostrich and emu meat are low in cholesterol and calories, high in iron, and contain less than 2 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving.

The oil from the meat is unsaturated. Because of its low fat content, the meat cooks faster than other higher-fat meat products. Ostrich and emu meats cook in half the time of beef. Be careful not to overcook, as it becomes tough and changes flavor. When cooking roasts, use low temperatures (190 degrees to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The lean meat of an ostrich is comprised of a tenderloin and 10 major muscle groups that range in size from 2 to 10 pounds. Lean ostrich meat is marketed as: drum, which includes roast cuts; rump cuts for fajita strips, stir fry and some steaks; and fillet cuts, which include filet, New York strip, medallions, shell steak, and boomerang steak. The uncooked meat is slightly dark to red to slightly cherry red in color, with some variation from one muscle group to another. When purchasing meat, remember that ostrich/emu is a 100 percent yield; there is no gristle or fat to trim.

Recent market trends have shown a decline in the price of ostrich and emu meat. Reputable suppliers of meat provide consistent quality products in a wide variety of standard cuts. Specific cuts of meat have been identified for appearance and preparation, making it easier for the chef as well as the home cook in selecting the cut appropriate for specific needs. Although standard cuts are the mainstay of the supplier, purchases of whole muscles and whole legs are possible. What a substitute for a standing steam ship round!

Nutritional Information
  Cholesterol Calories Fat Protein Iron
49mg 97 1.7g 21.2g 2.5mg
29mg 84 0.8g 19.6g 4.0mg
73mg 140 3.0g 27.0g 1.1mg
(roasted, white)
59mg 135 3.0g 25.0g 2.0mg
(lean, broiled steak)
77mg 240 15.0g 23.0g 3.1mg
(lean, broiled loin)
84mg 275 19.0g 24.0g 0.9mg

For more information:

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Room 423 Mayo Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0800

The American Ostrich Association
3950 Fossil Creek Blvd., Suite 200
Fort Worth, Texas 76137

Florida Chapter of the American Ostrich Association
410 Bunkers Cove Rd.
Panama City, Florida 32401 904/913-0908

American Emu Association
P.O. Box 8174
Dallas, Texas 75205

Special thanks to Komochi Food and Health Products, Inc.
for providing meat for recipe development.