Ostrich Meat Won't Fly, Say Researchers

Feb. 26, 1998

If you plan to make a fortune by raising ostriches for their meat, you might want to think again, say two professors at Baylor University. Dr. Janelle Walter and Dr. LuAnn Soliah, associate professors of family and consumer science, have determined that ostrich meat, while lower in saturated fat and higher in iron than lean ground beef, would not be readily accepted by consumers when compared to ground beef.

The two professors presented 83 untrained judges with ostrich stew, beef stew, ostrich stir-fry and beef stir-fry in four different sequences. The samples were identified only by letters of the alphabet. Using a scale of 1 (least desirable) to 7 (most desirable), the judges rated the samples on flavor, color, moistness and tenderness. The judges returned one week later and using the same criteria, rated the samples that were now identified by animal origin.

The judges rated beef stew higher than ostrich stew seven out eight times and beef stir-fry higher than ostrich stir-fry five out of eight times, although the ostrich samples received higher scores when identified as ostrich.

From this response, Walter and Soliah determined that substituting ostrich for ground beef would only be moderately successful. "While ostrich is nutritionally better for you, it is very expensive at $7 to $20 per pound and is not readily available," said Walter.

Walter pointed out that statistics show that there are not enough ostrich breeders in the U.S. to capture even 1 percent of the market. To meet this demand, 80,000 birds would have to be slaughtered per week. Currently, the U. S. only has 18,000 ostrich raisers.

Additionally, ostriches have enormous appetites, do not always successfully breed in captivity and are hard to transport, making the birds expensive and difficult to raise. These problems, in turn, drive up the price of ostrich meat.

Walter said that the price of ostrich meat is comparable to the price of "special occasion foods" such as crab and lobster, but that consumers might not view it as such a food.

"People have to look forward to what they are eating, and I don't know if they would look forward to eating ostrich," she said

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