As of now, Roaming Acres Ostrich Farm has no ostrich eggs—the two on display are hollow with holes drilled at the top. Few people but Lou, who has been in the ostrich business for 12 years, have any reason to know this, but we are not in ostrich season right now. As Bwog learned from a vendor truly passionate about his product, ostriches lay their eggs in tune with sun patters and will not lay again until April. But never fear! Roaming Acres still has a range of ostrich meats, soaps, dog treats, decorations, and even the odd emu product. But why eat an egg so notoriously hard and so obviously bizarre? Lou explains …
Bwog: So why ostrich?
Lou: [Kitting his eyebrows] Everybody doesn’t have an ostrich?
B: I don’t and I don’t think many people do, but maybe I am mistaken, but why do you have them?
L: We were part of a rare meats business that eventually broke in half and one half was more interested in the ostrich side of things.
B: What kind of rare meats did you have back then?
L: Name a meat. Any kind of meat.
L: Oh, we had kangaroo, rattlesnake, snapping turtle stew, bison, yak ribs, you name it.
B: But these are them, the ostrich eggs? Or are these just displays? They look so waxy.
L: No, these are the real deal, they look waxy but they’re not waxed, that’s just a natural effect.
B: Of the two, which do you prefer—emu or ostrich?
L: They’re both good but they’re both different. The ostrich is more like a chicken egg except it’s a bit sweeter. The whites are lighter and a little fluffier, but it makes a good egg quiche or omelette for about 10 to 12 people. Emu is darker—it’s got a dark orange yoke. It’ll serve six people, maybe eight. It’s creamy, a lot like a duck egg. Or a pterodactyl egg.
B: A pterodactyl? You’re sure on that?
L: Well no one’s come along to contradict me.
B: You’ve got some other meats here. What parts of the ostrich do you use?
L: We use every part of the animal. The meat goes into jerky, gets ground up. We smoke the tendons and bones for dog treats like this [pulls out a bone the size of a child’s arm, smoky brown with bits of dry tendon hanging off of it]. This is an upper leg bone.
B: Damn. That is huge. I always thought ostriches just had those spindly bird legs.
L: All the meat is on the legs. These birds haven’t flown in a million or so years … that we know of at least. So there’s no breast meat because they’re not using their wings, but they have strong legs. And as a result you get a poultry meat that’s red. It’s a very lean meat. It’s 97 to 99 percent fat free and the second highest meat in iron next to venison.
B: You know your ostriches, don’t you? All right, give me another ostrich fun fact.
L: Ahhhhh, lifespan! How long do you think an ostrich lives? … 65 to 75 years, reproducing for about 30 years, and mature at about 3. We have about 400 ostriches, 80 breeding, with a 60 hen to 20 rooster ratio.
B: That is a prolific bird. So why isn’t it more common?
L: It’s the sun thing. They only lay eggs when they’re happy. If it’s too hot, they’re not happy. If it’s too shady, they’re not happy. If it’s too cold, they’re not happy.
B: Temperamental birds.
L: When you get that big you’re allowed to be. You know those nature shows where you see a lion or a crocodile eating all those animals? Know why you’ve never seen one eating an ostrich? Because one-on-one the ostrich always wins. They kick forward, two toes, each with a two to three inch nail. Think velociraptor.
B: But you go toe-to-toe with them, and you win?
L: Because I keep my distance. The hens you can ride, but …
B: Wait, you ride them? I thought that was a stupid TV joke, but do you ride ostriches?
L: We don’t at the farm, but some people do. They’ve been used for riding for years. The ancient Egyptians, the royalty rode ostriches and even used them to pull their chariots. People have always used ostriches for all sorts of things. We render the oil and the fat for soaps.
But because of [a very complex explanation about wholesale meat markets and their incompatibility with ostrich production] most people have never tasted ostrich meat. And it is a very good meat. We like this market model because we get to meet the people in New York and they ask questions and they want to know more about ostrich and they get to know the food.
We do about six markets a week now and actually this Sunday we’ll be at a market behind the Museum of Natural History and we’re going to be sampling, grinding up some meat and sampling ostrich chili. It will be good.