A strange looking bird that produces tasty, nutrient-rich red meat and oil with potential health benefits is attracting a flock of new fans in the United States. Sponsored by the American Emu Association (AEA), National Emu Week (NEW) is a nine-day promotional event that will run from May 6 through May 14, 2006.
According to Michael Snook of Nature’s Own Emu Products in Dearborn, MO, there will be a lot of activities going on around the country. “Many of the farmers will be hosting open houses, becoming guest speakers, or giving farm tours to schoolchildren, nursing home residents and the general public,” said Snook.
Emus are members of the ratite family, which also includes ostrich, kiwi, cassowary and rhea. Originally from Australia, this cousin to the ostrich is being raised in the United States for its lean red meat. Recognized as Heart Healthy™ by the American Heart Association, emu ranked best in 15 out of 20 essential nutrients in a USDA funded study at the University of Wisconsin. Similar in taste and texture to lean beef, the big birds are grown in the United States without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.
According to AEA president Charles Ramey, emu meat is available either vacuum packed or fresh. “It can be mail-ordered from individual producers or found at retail in specialty food stores, health food stores and retail establishments around the country,” said Ramey.
Important co-products from the emu include leather, feathers for fashion and crafts and the fat, which is turned into oil used in health and beauty products. The large green eggs are popular with egg artists, particularly those that carve or sculpt eggs because of the three layers of color found in the shell: white, teal and dark green.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports that emu are being raised on over 5,000 farms across the country. Farmers who have diversified their operations to include emu find the big birds take up little space. Most emu operations in the U.S. are run on less than 10 acres.