Magazine article Sunset

Emu-The Big Bird That Tastes like Beef

Magazine article Sunset

Emu-The Big Bird That Tastes like Beef

Article excerpt

"Emu again?" This just may be the cry in 21st-century homes.. Australia's national bird--as impressive in size as the ostrich--has the flavor of lean beef, and it is lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than skinned chicken.

Australian aborigines have long prized the emu not only for its meat but also for its oil (rendered from the fat), which they use as a skin softener and healing unguent. Emu oil is being used commercially in cosmetics, and the feathers play a role in fashion, feather dusters, and fishing lures. The cured hide makes a soft and supple leather. And the eggshells, with eight layers of different colors, are carved into cameos.

New interest in emu meat is behind the rapid growth of the Western Emu Association, which has close to 300 members, and the American Emu Association, which now has 5,000. Though the USDA has not yet approved domestically produced emu meat for sale, emus are being raised in this country, and breeding pairs cost big bucks. The flightless bird has quite a reputation: it is hardy and disease-resistant, adapts well to a range of climates and temperatures, and thrives on grain and insects. Emus have a high survival rate as chicks, and after a year they yield as much as 30 pounds of meat from the drum (upper leg), rump, and saddle (back). Unlike most birds, emus have no breast meat. Order emu imported from Australia through a meat market, or from Polarica (Game), 105 Quint St., San Francisco 94124; (800) 426-3872. All cuts cost about $12 per pound plus shipping.

Emu Medallions with Gin Sauce

Cooking time: About 25 minutes

Prep time: About 20 minutes

Notes: Up to 1 day ahead, prepare juniper-peppercorn paste and pound meat, then cover and chill. Overcooking makes emu tough.

Makes: 4 servings

2 tablespoons green peppercorns 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries 2 cloves garlic 1 tablespoon salad oil About 1 3/4 pounds emu 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 1/2 cup each beef broth and port 2 tablespoons minced shallots 1 tablespoon gin 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed smooth with 1 tablespoon water Chive spears Salt

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