sealPurdue News

June 1997

Purdue experts help simplify market for ostrich meat

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Thanks to two big-bird specialists from Purdue University, ostrich meat is gaining more recognition as the "other red meat" for populations around the world.

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Chef Hubert Schmieder and Professor William Stadelman proposed an international ostrich meat identification guide, based on the American Ostrich Association Meat Guide, this spring at a meat congress in Oustdoorn, South Africa. The guide was approved in May at a meeting in Belgium and is set to change the way ostrich steak, fillets and ground ostrich are bought and sold worldwide.

Instead of using scientific descriptions or common names that could be confused between countries, the meat guide uses numbers to differentiate between the different edible parts of an ostrich.

It's no challenge to find meat on the lanky birds. The American Ostrich Association says there is approximately 90 pounds of meat on an average 12-month-old bird weighing about 250 pounds.

Stadelman, professor emeritus of food science, says ostriches originally were grown for their feathers and the leather from their hides. "The meat was first thought of as just a waste product," he says. "It's just been in the last 12 years or so that the meat has been marketed in the United States."

Ostrich meat hasn't grown in popularity in America as it has abroad, but Schmieder says ostrich is beginning to compete in more "white tablecloth" restaurants in larger U.S. cities. "Ostrich won't take off in America until we have a better distribution of the bird," Schmieder says. "But it's a cumbersome journey to raise and bring the bird to market when you're putting an ostrich burger up against a hamburger, even if it's more nutritious."

Distribution also is held up because ostrich is still more expensive than other meats. Market prices range from $3 a pound for ground ostrich in some supermarkets to more than $30 for an entree in some restaurants.

Schmieder says the meat looks just like beef but is very lean. "It's lower in calories and cholesterol and higher in iron than any other red meat," he says. "The absence of fat gives it a different texture than beef, but it's very juicy and tender when cooked properly.

Ostriches, which are native to Africa and Southwest Asia, are raised successfully in every region of the United States. The American Ostrich Association says neither the U.S. Department of Agriculture nor the Census Bureau track the ostrich population as they do other species of livestock, but based on a survey of its membership, the association estimates there are between 350,000 and 500,000 ostriches of all ages in the United States.

With outdoor barbecue weather approaching, here is a recipe to add to your grilling menu:

Honey Glazed Ostrich Shish-Kebabs

1/5 bottle of red wine 1 teaspoon thyme
1 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon parsley 1-2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon rosemary 4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons white pepper 3-4 bay leaves

Ostrich Meat:
6-8 pounds, inside leg and outside leg cuts, trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes.

Tomatoes, onions and green peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces

Place meat and marinade in a glass or ceramic container, covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Skewer, alternating meat with tomato, green pepper and onion. Suspend skewers over shallow pan and baste with honey, allowing excess to run off. Cook over medium fire on a covered grill turning once. Total cooking time is about 10 minutes. Do not overcook.

Sources: Hubert Schmieder, (765) 494-5997;
William Stadelman, (765) 494-8286
American Ostrich Association, (817) 232-1200; Web,
Writer: Jenny Pratt, (765) 494-2096; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo Caption:

Purdue University chef Hubert Schmieder (left) and Tippecanoe County ostrich farmer Jim Jones look on as some playful ostriches play keep-away with the chef's hat. Schmieder has been working to standardize the worldwide grading system for ostrich meat. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Schmieder/Grading
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