Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Other Red Meat' at 40 M.P.H ; A Farmer Finds a Thriving Market for Ostrich Meat, Which Doesn't Taste like Chicken or Turkey

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'The Other Red Meat' at 40 M.P.H ; A Farmer Finds a Thriving Market for Ostrich Meat, Which Doesn't Taste like Chicken or Turkey

Article excerpt

Standing at the lower end of his hayfield, Powell Anderson points to the middle of a set of long, narrow pens he installed a few years back. There, nestled in the grass between two eight-foot tall ostriches, is a gigantic white egg.

It looks like a chicken's egg - and Dr. Anderson says it will taste exactly like one - but it's seven inches long and can make an omelet the size of one that contains two dozen hen eggs.

Since it isn't breeding season, that's what he'd like to do with the infertile egg.

But there's a not-so-small problem: The ostriches won't let him near it. The bizarre, long-necked birds chased Anderson away this morning and are now busy rolling the egg around with the undersides of their enormous beaks.

"Guess I'm going to have go get it with the truck," he says with a laugh, as another pair of ostriches race one another down an adjacent pen at remarkably high speeds.

Every few minutes a passing vehicle pulls over to the side of the narrow country road, the occupants gawking at Anderson's two dozen adult breeders, which live up to 70 years, weigh 250 pounds, and can run 40 miles per hour. Some of the ostriches run over to the edge of the fence to gawk back.

They're incredibly strange-looking birds, but, believe it or not, their meat is also incredibly delicious.

Many people assume that ostriches, being big birds, would taste like turkey or chicken. But ostrich meat is deep red, the tender, succulent steaks almost indistinguishable from filet mignon. Ostrich growers call it "the other red meat."

Ostrich meat has half the fat of chicken and a third the fat of beef. Since no growth hormones, chemicals, or dyes have been approved for use with ostrich, all the birds grown in the United States are organic and free-range.

In 1995, Anderson, a veterinarian who'd been practicing in Florida, returned to his native Andersonville, a tiny central Virginia farming community 50 miles west of Richmond. He set up a veterinary practice and, to his neighbors' surprise, turned his lower hayfield into the Andersonville Ostrich Ranch.

"People laughed about it at first," Anderson's daughter and ranch manager, Cynthia Harmon, recalls. "But they aren't laughing now."

Their market for ostrich has been growing slowly but steadily as more Americans discover the tasty meat. With an annual crop of around 100 birds, Anderson's operation is relatively small and concentrates on supplying individual restaurants and online retail customers. Larger farms keep supermarket chains such as Harris Teeter and Winn-Dixie in ostrich roasts, fillets, and burgers.

A spokesperson for the American Ostrich Association told one news service that sales of ostrich meat and leather has averaged about $6 million annually during the past five years.

While American sales are still growing, ostrich meat sales are shooting up in countries like France, South Africa, and Spain. …

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