POULTRY FACT SHEET NO. 17B
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
The Ratite Meat Industry
Francine A. Bradley Extension Poultry Specialist University of California, Animal Sciences Department, Davis, CA 95616
The following article was contributed by:
The time is now for the ostrich, emu and rhea meat industry. The high priced breeder market is a thing of the past. The future of the ostrich and emu industry will depend greatly upon the successful sale of the meat. The rhea industry will depend upon its sale of the meat as a health product.
Ratite meat is an expensive meat and must be handled and sold as such. It must be marketed as a premium meat and sold on its high iron- low fat content. Its "healthy" meat aspect must be promoted. Ratite meat cannot compete on a cost basis with beef, pork or poultry.
The success of the ratite meat industry will depend upon: 1) sound breeding (the ratite must yield a high percentage of meat, 2) good nutrition and management (a good feed to gain ratio), 3) efficient processing procedures and 4) an aggressive marketing and promotion program. An in-depth discussion of 3 and 4 follows.
Ratite growers must have a cost effective way of getting their birds processed and marketed. Federal inspection must be paid by the federal government.
Processors include those who:
Regardless of the manner in which the meat is handled, there must be an adequate supply of quality meat to furnish the needs of the market on a regular basis. Meat from ratites that are not well fleshed or that are too old should not be sold as quality meat. This meat should be incorporated into by-products that do not require the degree of tenderness of high quality meats.
Processors and others who prepare ratite meat for sale must know, or be trained, to put out high quality meat. The meat must have all the "silver" removed. "Silver" refers to the thin tissue, which is silver in color, that covers each muscle. When cooked it becomes tough, resulting in a tough mouth feel to the meat.
Packaging needs to be done as it relates to the type of customer. Ratite meat to be sold to retail customers should be in a package with an attractive picture of the ready-to-eat meat on the front. How to prepare the meat, its nutritoinal content and other pertinent information should be included. There should be one or more openings on the package so the customer can see the meat. Ratite meat to be sold to the institutional trade, and this includes restaurants, need not be packaged as elaborately.
Ratite meat to be sold as whole muscles require a method of identification. This is especially true of meat being sold through brokers and being exported to foreign countries. Identification of ratite muscles by numbering the muscles with reference to their scientific names is the simplest way and the most widely accepted procedure. The American Ostrich Association in their Meat Buyers Guide lists numbers for most of the ostrich muscles. The International Ostrich Meat Buyers Guide lists numbers for all of the muscles. The numbers of the two groups differ somewhat. The American Emu Association is working on numbers for the emu muscles. The Australian Emu Association has a different set of numbers. No numbers have been developed for the rhea muscles.
Promotion of ratite meat is paramount in the movement of the product. Promotion needs to be done by all involved in the ratite business and must be directed to the segments where the meat will be marketed and/or consumed.
Today, the major market for ratite meat is foreign countries. Tomorrow, the United States could become a major consumer. Success depends upon the determination of the growers, processors and sellers to market high quality products that consumers want.
Birds Ill or Dying? Where To Go For Help.
The California Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System (CVDLS) is part of the University of California and is made up of five diagnostic laboratories. It is important to understand that the mission of the CVDLS is to provide services that assist in controlling poultry and livestock diseases in California and to provide support for equine health. The labs are diagnostic facilities. No treatment is provided at these facilities. You may submit animals that have recently died. You may also submit live animals showing symptoms, but these animals will be killed and examined.
All of the labs are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and no appointment is necessary. As of this writing, the fees are as follows:
Quantity Fee -------------------------------------------------------- Ratites 1 $53.00 Ratite eggs with embryos 1 $53.00 --------------------------------------------------------
To obtain information on how to properly submit birds and/or eggs and for information on the courier service, you should contact the lab nearest you.
California Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System
Davis Central Reference Laboratory
Turlock Branch Laboratory
Fresno Branch Laboratory
Tulare Branch Laboratory
San Bernardino Branch Laboratory
There are numerous local and county organizations. It is recommended that you contact a national or statewide group first. Those groups can refer you to current leaders in your area.
American Emu Association (AEA)
American Ostrich Association (AOA)
United Ratite Cooperative
The Ostrich News
Ratite Management, Medicine, and Surgery
To order send $59.00 plus $5.00 for shipping to Krieger Publishing Company, P.O. Box 9542, Melbourne, FL 32902; (407) 724- 9542.
The Ratite Encyclopedia.
The Australian Emu Embryonic Development.
The 19"x24" poster uses color photographs to show the normal development stages of the emu embryo, as well as abnormal embryos resulting from common incubation problems. The poster also gives recommended incubation conditions that should produce healthy emu chicks.
This poster is an excellent diagnostic tool for emu breeders. Suitable for hanging in the hatchery's egg break-out area, the poster can be referred to for estimating the age at death and possible explanations for the embryonic mortality observed.
With its photographs of emu embryos, chicks, and adults, the colorful poster is also appropriate for the classroom.
To order send $7.50 per poster to University of California, DANR Communication Services-Publications, 6701 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA 94608-1239. Payment must accompany order. Price includes applicable sales tax. Please make check or money order payable to UC Regents. You may also order by telephone or fax using a purchase order, MasterCard or VISA. Minimum order: credit cards $5, purchase orders $25. Telephone: 1-800-994- 8849 or 510-642-2431; Fax 510-643-5470.
Embryonic Development of the Ostrich. Weekly Intervals.
Ostrich Meat Chart Poster.
Ostrich Nomenclature Chart.