Jim McMillen's Blog


Recently, I was on the phone with a Texas cattle-breeder friend. The subject of ostriches and emus came up. Years ago he had told me of motorists, himself included, having seen the big birds living in the wild--the same as deer. I asked him if folks were still seeing them in the wild. He said that he didn’t think so.

Twenty or so years ago, the next big money-making bonanza was to have been ranching ostrich, emu, and other flightless big birds. The first profiteers were breeding the big-eyed giants and selling breeding pairs and eggs to ranchers and other land owners for outrageously high prices. It was believed that there would be a huge demand for the “delicious” and healthy meat—and that the hides would be valuable for boots and other footwear as well as handbags and other leather goods. The hides remain in demand, and there’s limited demand for the meat, so the industry is still around.

However, the great bonanza, like the big birds themselves, never took flight for most of the landowners who made the big “can’t miss” investment.  As the “bird herds” grew, the old supply/demand adage took prices so low that few “bird ranchers” could afford to feed the long-legged, near-impossible-to-herd creatures. Basically, the demand for meat never materialized to expectations--not by a long shot.

So the birds were left to forage for themselves by many frustrated owners. Gates were left open so the strange-looking creatures could graze on roadsides and neighbors’ land. There were stories across the nation, especially in Texas, about motorists’ unexpected run-ins with the out-of-place birds.

I imagine a few wild ostriches, emus, and other long-legged big birds must still be around. Perhaps some tweeter will let me know. 

Posted in: General

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