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Ostrich and Emu Industry Overview

by 5m Editor
26 August 2003, at 12:00am

US - The ostrich and emu industries, collectively know as ratite, are attempting to recover from a tremendous economic shakedown.

Ostrich and Emu Industry Overview - US - The ostrich and emu industries, collectively know as ratite, are attempting to recover from a tremendous economic shakedown.

Having experienced tremendous growth during the 1980s and 1990s, the industry out-produced its ability to develop consistent demand that could support the inflated values placed on breeding pairs and chicks.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, the industry was one of the fastest growing segments of production agriculture. It promised a way to diversify existing farming operations and it provided an opportunity for new producers to enter production agriculture. The potential for rapid returns and huge profits from selling breeding stock, meat and other by-products attracted investment dollars from every segment of the economy.

Even faster than the industry grew, it collapsed. Although ratite meat is a high quality product that offers lower fat and lower cholesterol levels, producers were not able to develop a large enough consumer base willing to pay the additional costs to purchase the product. Ratite meat cuts often ran several dollars a pound more than comparable beef cuts. Despite uncertainty in the market, the industry continued to over produce at a rate that quickly flooded the market. Over production subsequently led to dramatic price declines that eliminated a significant portion of the production operations. Prices for birds plummeted from highs of 25 to 50 thousand dollars per breeding pair to as low as a thousand dollars per pair. Fertile eggs and chicks that use to bring as much as a thousand dollars or more each are now sold for less than a hundred dollars.

The surviving ratite producers that have weathered this economic storm still face the same fundamental problem the industry started with, how to grow production numbers and market demand at a rate that complements each other. Although the illusion of getting quick profits is long past, there remains strong sentiment for the merits of a bird that provides healthy meat products, versatile oils, and outstanding leather products.

Source: By Ray Hansen, content specialist, AgMRC Agriculture Marketing Resource Centre,Iowa State University - August 2003

5m Editor