Archive for Ostrich Markets

What is our market?

Newsletter 56 - Item 4

After discussing the increasing demand for meat protein this newsletter went onto discuss the markets for Ostrich.  The discussions are as true today - 2013 - as they were when first published.

What is our Market?
Clearly, this large increase in meat demand offers tremendous market potential for ostrich.  To supply that market, volumes have to increase significantly.  I would suggest it requires a phased approach to the markets while building sustainable growth to achieve the volumes required to support that increased demand for meat protein.   The phased approach described below can apply to whichever country one is working in, as every country has a high-end market and many cannot export to the highest value markets.  Establishing the markets in one’s own country first should remain a priority.

Phase 1:
When volumes are low, production costs are high. This is aggravated by the fact that management systems to support the production potential of the current genetics and start a genetic improvement program have not yet been introduced and applied to ostrich. The markets willing to pay above average prices demand a consistent product and reliable supply they can depend on.

Health issues, animal welfare concerns and increasing wealth are among the influences that are changing meat consumption habits in the European, North American and other high end markets.  In these markets, consumers have sufficient wealth that they can afford to be selective in their choices of meat and willing to pay a premium.  Other meats – the category ostrich falls under - as discussed in Newsletter No. 40, currently account for around 4% of total meat consumed worldwide (30% in Europe). This market would be considerably larger if there was a consistent supply in sufficient volume and produced at commercially attractive prices.

Examples of meats classified as alternative meats are Buffalo/Bison, Venison, Kangaroo, Crocodile, Rabbit, Wild Boar and Reindeer.  As illustrated here Ostrich is proven to have the potential for commercial production on sufficient scale to compliment pig and poultry production as major suppliers of meat protein, when applying the right techniques to their production.  Buffalo and Venison are both ruminant meats.  Not only are ruminants less feed efficient, they also have other negative environmental concerns.

This top end of the meat market is willing to pay premium prices.  Supplying these markets provides the additional revenue while volumes are low and production costs are high.   These markets are serviced by specialist buyers supplying the retail and service industry at the top end of the market that purchase in lower volume and willing to pay a premium for a specialist meat.

This puts the industry on the path to sustainable production that is more able to provide data to effectively predict production.  Data is required to support protocols laid down by the larger buyers.  These protocols are becoming increasingly important as pressure increases from not only the animal rights lobbyists but also from the consumer concerned how the animals they eat are raised and fed.

Phase 2:
As production increases, with increasing data becoming available, it will become possible to selectively supply the high end supermarkets. These outlets demand absolute consistency of supply and quality. Some of these are prepared to pay a premium for the quality product that differentiates them from the high volume outlets, but still require greater volume than is currently available or predicted in the first years.

Phase 3:
Phase 3 is reached when there is sufficient volume to supply all demand. At this point the meat becomes a commodity, and some specialist companies will probably differentiate their products to achieve firmer prices, as we currently experience in pig and poultry production.

The production of ostrich meat peaked in 2002 with over 550,000 slaughter birds produced in that year, the number today is less than half.  Production remains around 60% in South Africa with the balance spread amongst a dozen different regions, all lacking coordinated production providing erratic volume and quality.  South African production especially has been disrupted a number of times over the years with health issues in their herd resulting in closure of their export borders.

The European buyers have witnessed their sales halved through lack of supply, not lack of demand.  Ostrich will only get past Phase 1 with the introduction of modern production systems capable of supporting their production potential.


Increasing Demand for Meat Protein

Newsletter No. 56 - Item 3

The following are all interesting articles discussing the future demand for meat protein, the driving forces and the problems this creates.  Please click on the title to download and read each article, they discuss some important and interesting issues:

Can we Feed the Animals?  (Short version)
China’s rapidly growing meat demand: a domestic or an international challenge?
How to feed 2 billion more mouths in 2030? Here are some answers

There are many more articles available with similar discussions - last month’s issue of World Poultry (Oct 2007) carried an article on a similar topic, but that is not yet published on the Internet.   This is a brief summary of their content:

  • further confirmation of the increasing demand for meat protein
  • that increase coming in developing countries driven by the increasing buying power of consumers in those countries
  • developed countries have reached their growth limit when measured in volume as people have a finite daily consumption of meat
  • poultry likely to take the bulk of the increase because of religious constraints on pig meat consumption
  • increased production likely to come in developing countries because of reduced production costs
  • meat production coming mainly from grains in developed countries
  • developing countries produce meat from grazing, crop residues and household waste
  • pressure on our natural resources to produce the additional production
  • technology improving to help provide sustainable agriculture

Ostrich has a role to play in contributing to the increased demand.   As we mention regularly, with ostrich we have one of the most feed efficient of all farmed animals and is probably the most feed efficient of all red meat production animals, when farmed in the right way.  Ostrich meat is acceptable to most religious groups including those unable to eat pig meat, thus providing an alternative to poultry meat – not a replacement, just providing more variability for these consumers.

The table below illustrates the days to slaughter for broiler chicken and different types of pigs, their live-weight and their feed conversion.  It is interesting to compare these figures against the production potential of ostrich.  The figures for ostrich assume 5 years and 10 years of development from introducing management systems that support high levels of production and nutrition that supports the full genetic production potential in the same manner that pig and poultry production has achieved.

Comparative Production Data
Comparative Production Data

How many days do you currently take to get your bird’s to slaughter, what is their liveweight, what are the meat yields and what is the feed conversion?  Whether your production is large or small these are essential measurements of performance to optimise in order to achieve sustainable commercial viability.   Optimising the ability to convert feed efficiently requires fewer resources to produce the meat.  The fewer days taken to take to slaughter, the less area required,  less water to drink and never forgetting that when we feed the birds for maximum production as much as 40% of an ostrich slaughter bird ration is Alfalfa, thus reducing the demand for grains while providing an excellent rotational crop.

During the past month, I have again read articles about excited small producers discussing grazing their ostrich.  We must warn members that depending on grazing grass for ostrich usually results in disappointing results with high levels of chick mortality and other metabolic problems.  It will never be possible to achieve the production efficiencies previously discussed when dependent on grazing ostrich.


Ostrich Veterinary Health Plan

Newsletter No 55 - Item 3 & 4

An important element of any assurance scheme is the Veterinary Health Plan.

The Veterinary Health Plan (VHP) is a requirement of most Farm Assurance Schemes and retailers “codes of practice”.

The VHP is a document agreed between the farm’s vet and the farm management working in partnership.  The plan involves regular visits by the farm’s own vet.  The recommendation is the same vet carries out these visits to maintain consistency.

VHPs need to address a number of areas to achieve those objectives, such as:

-  flock security/biosecurity
-  basic performance parameters
-  the monitoring of body condition
-  general ostrich welfare
-  basic disease control programmes
-  recording, monitoring and controlling disease on the farm
-  the use of medicines, vaccines, their safety and their recording

This newsletter focused on the veterinary health plan as it applies to ostrich, as most vets will admit that information on ostrich is limited.  (Note at 2013 this statement remains true).  The way to approach the development of an Ostrich specific plan is to look at the plans designed for other species and then adapt them to ostrich. Just like the Business Plan, the Veterinary Health Plan is a living document that will be under continual review to improve and update with experience and current market conditions.

Flock Security
The ability to supply markets on a consistent basis is paramount to success of any business. The most influential management area that controls consistent supply in livestock production is the control of disease.  Consistency of product quality is also extremely important, but only relevant once the security of supply is under management control.

The role of the VHP is to help identify weaknesses in farm production that influence the ability to limit the impact of disease.

Basic Performance Parameters
These are examples with ostrich of some of the basic performance parameters that provide an indication as to the success of the management systems to deliver good health and welfare as well as profit:

-  egg fertility

-  feed conversion

-  egg hatchability

-  deaths

-  hatching difficulties

-  injuries

-  breeder culling rates

-  incidence and type of lameness

-  percentage chick to slaughter/breeder

-  medicine use and reason

-  metabolic diseases

The WOA benchmark targets are very achievable performance parameters.

Monitoring Body Condition
Currently there are very few references on how to establish optimal body condition of ostrich.   Figure 1 below illustrate the extremes currently experienced in the industry.  The hen on the left is very thin with poor feather quality when compared to the hen on the right.  You will notice also, how little muscle this hen has across her back by comparison to the hen on the right.

The hen on the left had a ration that was mainly grain based, with limited vitamins and minerals.  The hen on the right received rations that are of high nutrient value with high levels of vitamins and minerals.

comparative hens

Figure 1 - Comparative Hens

Apart from visual inspection, the way to physically assess the body condition of ostrich:

Quote: When the backbone at the highest place on the bird's back is protruding above the surrounding flesh, the bird is too thin. When the backbone at the highest place on the bird's back is indented below the surrounding flesh, the bird is too fat and needs decreased feed—or a different feed formulation.  The optimum Body Condition is when the backbone at the highest point on their back is perfectly even with the surrounding flesh End Quote [1].

3.4.  General Ostrich Welfare
At the most basic level, this covers the internationally recognised five freedoms. These basic freedoms are:

-  Freedom from hunger and thirst
By ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour

- Freedom from discomfort
By providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area

- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
By prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

- Freedom to express normal behaviour
By providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind

- Freedom from fear and distress
By ensuring conditions and care which avoid mental suffering

Top of that list is freedom from hunger.  The current poor production results – variable egg production and low conversion of eggs to slaughter/mature birds, is a key indicator that the industry in general is failing to achieve that first freedom through the inadequate supply of the right nutrients in the diet.

Basic Disease Control Programs
Strategies, procedures and the recording of general policies fall into this category.

- cleansing and hygiene policies including disinfectants used
§ Buildings
§ Pens
§ Water Troughs
§ Feed Troughs
- pest control (including rodents and birds)
- parasite controls (internal and external)
- hospital and isolation pens
- casualty slaughter

Recording, Monitoring and Controlling disease on farm
Good records are the key to not only monitoring disease issues but also performance trends as the two are closely linked.  A drop in production is a sign of possible disease problems.  Another cause for a drop in production, and/or more serious health problems, can be a feed problem.  Feed problems can be such things as a bad ingredient, sudden change of ingredient, poor mixing or insufficient water intake.

In addition to the normal farm production and feed data, the type of records required relating to disease are:

- Diseases identified
- Age of animal affected
- Method of Treatment
- Method of Control
- Review Periods
- Effectiveness of control programs

The movement records of any animals moved onto the farm or off the farm are also of importance in monitoring and controlling disease.

The use of medicines, vaccines, their safety and their recording
This section covers the recording of all medicines used in the unit.  The VHP should follow the legal requirements of the country in which the business is operating and include any additional requirements imposed by country the unit is exporting or buyer.  The type of information required is:

- the date treatment commenced
- the animal it is used on
- its identification and location
- the condition or disease treated
- the medicine used
- the batch number of the bottle
- the dose rate given
- the number of days that the medicine is used
- the withdrawal period in days
- the date at which the withdrawal period expires (the date of clearance)
- a note of who has administered the medicine
- details of all medicines purchased

Also included in this section are the procedures for:

-  the safe disposal of all clinical waste
-  storage of medicines
-  off-label use of medicines

Off-label use of medicines is the use of a product not licensed for the specie treated.  This is very common with ostrich as there are very few, if any, approved medicines for ostrich in most countries.  The laws will vary in different countries, but generally, this is allowed provided the medicine has a licence for food-producing species with an approved meat withdrawal period.  Check the law within your country and any country the unit exports meat to.

The role of Nutrition in Disease Control
The role of that nutrition in the control of disease is well documented and becoming increasingly important with governments eliminating the use of antibiotics in meat producing livestock.

This quote from a publication issued this month relates to human nutrition, but the same principles apply to livestock nutrition.  The article relates to Vitamin D.

Quote:  Meanwhile two other studies recently claimed that if we all got adequate amounts of this vitamin it would be possible to cut rates of breast, prostate and colon cancer by 50%.  And that’s not all – yet another research paper by researchers at the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta suggested that the reason we are all more likely to get colds and flu in the winter could be because that’s the time it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D.  Its role as an infection fighter could maybe used to tackle new enemies like bird flu, tuberculosis and MRSA. End quote[2]

When reading any discussion on the effect of a single nutrient, always remember that nutrients work in harmony with other essential nutrients.  The role of nutrition in human and animal health to fight disease and building a strong immune system is the foundation for disease control.  


[1] Daryl Holle Body Condition is Most Important:

[2] Patrick Holford Special Report No. 18 – Vitamin D – you are almost certainly not getting enough


Newsletter No. 55 - Item 2

Here and hereediscussed "Marketing Starting on the Farm".  This newsletter carried on that theme to illustrate just why this is so important in our current global market place.

GAP is an abbrevaiont for Good Agricultural Practices.

EurepGap becomes GLOBALGAP
We regularly discuss the increasing importance of assurance schemes, codes and standards in food production.  To illustrate further the impact of globalisation in the production of food, EurepGap has now become GLOBALGAP.  This is the press release announcing the change of title and logo.

Quote:  Bangkok, 7th September 07 – Using its eighth annual conference being held in Thailand this week as an appropriate platform, EUREPGAP has announced it is changing its title and logo to GLOBALGAP.

The decision has been taken to reflect its expanding international role in establishing Good Agricultural Practices mutually agreed between multiple retailers and their suppliers.

In ten years since its inception - initially targeted at Europe - the voluntary organisation has seen its influence spread and led to the creation of identical criteria adopted as far afield as South and Central America, Africa, Australasia, and most recently Japan and Thailand.

Established equivalent schemes such ChileGAP, ChinaGAP, KenyaGAP, MexicoGAP, JGAP (Japan) and most recently ThaiGAP, are backed by national governments, retailers, producers and exporters.

"Currently GLOBALGAP covers over 80,000 certified producers in no less than 80 counties with others expected to follow," explains Chairman Nigel Garbutt.  "It has meant that through the adoption of good agricultural practices subject to regular independent monitoring that committed producers regardless of their scale can compete on an equal footing.

"The reason for the name change is that it now makes common sense to clarify our far wider role at a time when both producers and retailers are operating on an international level across national boundaries.

Kristian Moeller Secretary GLOBALGAP added, "By positively aligning ourselves in this way, it allows us to identify and fit more closely and more clearly into the global supply chain.”

“The re-naming will be accompanied by a significantly improved website which will meet the information needs of our increasingly wider range of stakeholders.”

As at 2013 the GlobalGAP contiues to develop and provides an illustration on the requirements on of the modern meat markets as can be seen by this document from their website.


Marketing Starts on the Farm – 2

Newsletter No. 54

Establishing a market for their products is critical to the success of any business. With livestock, it used to be that you would raise your animal and when it was finished, take it to market. Today that is all changing very rapidly, not just in the EU but also in many importing countries as a result of globalisation, which has resulted in food crossing international borders.

Consumer demand today for greater food security and improved animal welfare makes it increasingly difficult for buyers to source livestock through the market system and retain the ablity to offer these securities.  .

The legislation now in place in the EU and many other countries makes it increasingly challenging to provide the full traceability for animals purchased at livestock markets. Buyers today also seek greater consistency and uniformity as well as security of supply.

As at 2013, the recent horsemeat scandal in Europe has raised further awareness and concerns on food security and traceability.

To achieve buyer requirements the larger meat buyers purchase on contract and lay down stringent rearing standards, over and above those laid down by legislation. These rearing standards are not possible to monitor when they have no direct access to the animals while on farm because the first time they are seen is at the market.

These are some of the areas controlled on farm and if not in place, many buyers will not buy the meat.

- Food Safety/Consumer Health
- Animal Welfare
- Residue Monitoring
- Quality
- Disease Control
- Reliability of Supply

This clearly demonstrates why marketing starts on the farm. If all these things are not in place on the farm, then the market is limited if available at all.

It is not easy to place these factors in any particular order of importance because a failure in any one area can halt market availability even if the farm is perfect in all other areas.

The following illustrate these issues and discuss the role of the WOA in establishing protocols, where appropriate, with greatest focus on the areas that are important at farm level.

Food Safety/Consumer Health
In meat production examples of areas that are important to food safety and consumer health are:

  • Unwanted residues in the blood and meat:
    • Antibiotics
    • Growth Hormones
    • Heavy Metals
    • Pesticides
  • Drugs
  • Bacteria infection
  • Bruising
  • Disease of any nature

A visit to the government web sites indicates how important these issues are today.  The increase in globalisation of agriculture and intensification of livestock production has combined to increase the risks to consumers of contaminated product.

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which develops voluntary international standards for products and services, defines traceability as the “ability to trace the history, application, or location of that which is under consideration.”  Under EU law, “traceability” means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution.

Full traceability is becoming increasingly important in the major markets. With livestock, as can be seen, this is not simply from the slaughter plant to the point of sale, but also where born, where grown, what they have eaten throughout their lives, all medical history including treatments.  To achieve this records are required on such things as:

  • Unique Animal identification
  • Location of birth
  • Location during rearing
  • Feed fed throughout their life
    • To trace any potential contamination
    • Use of prohibited ingredients at any time
    • Supplying feed companies required to maintain full records of ingredient sources in each batch of feed
  • Health records
    • Diseases
    • Treatments
    • Vaccinations
  • Transport

Traceability is a way of responding to potential risks that can arise in food and feed, to ensure that all food products are safe to eat.  It is vital that when national authorities or food businesses identify a risk they can trace it back to its source in order to swiftly isolate the problem and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.  In addition, traceability allows targeted withdrawals and the provision of accurate information to the public, thereby minimising disruption to trade.

Past food crises such as dioxin contamination and BSE, have illustrated the particular importance of being able to swiftly identify and isolate unsafe foodstuffs in order to prevent them from reaching the consumer.  As at March 2013 the most recent incident is the Horsemeat found in processed foods labelled as beef and pork DNA found in halaal products.

Animal Welfare
The markets of Europe, Britain and North America are becoming increasingly concerned over animal welfare.  The British Domesticated Ostrich Association is working with DEFRA and the RSPCA to lay down basic standards here in Britain .

The WOA has created a set of welfare guidelins that can be used as a foundation for:

  • governments seeking guidance to develop their own codes
  • buyers wanting to set codes
  • certification organisations needing to learn more on ostrich

The gudielines are available at  We will amend and update as experience and data becomes more available.

The following quote from the EU web site: illustrates the importance now placed on having the right procedures in place to ensure meat is free of residues.

Quote: “Residues of Veterinary Medicinal Products - Introduction        

During their lifetime, animals may have to be treated with medicines for prevention or cure of diseases. In food producing animals such as cattle, pigs, poultry and fish this may lead to residues of the substances used for the treatment in the food products derived from these animals (e.g. meat, milk, eggs). The residues should however not be harmful to the consumer.

To guarantee a high level of consumer protection, Community legislation requires that the toxicity of potential residues is evaluated before the use of a medicinal substance in food producing animals is authorised. If considered necessary, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are established and in some cases, the use of the relevant substance is prohibited. The evaluation procedure is laid out in Council Regulation (EC) 2377/90 of 26 June 1990.

Directorate-General Enterprise is responsible for the rules governing medicinal products and the evaluation of residues of pharmacologically active substances used in veterinary medicinal products and for establishment of MRLs in the EU.  End Quote

Countries will have their own rules and regulations to monitor residues within the meat to protect their consumers.  In the EU, each country residue-monitoring plan is expected to follow the EU regulations:  This page provides information for those countries outside the EU wishing to supply the EU.

Residues in the meat result from inputs at the farm, and emphasise the importance of the correct controls on the farm.  These inputs include feed, water and all medication, internal and external.

The aspects of meat quality that are controlled at farm level are discussed in greater detailed in the WOA Factors Influencing Ostrich Meat Quality

  • Age of the animal
  • Nutrition
  • Management Systems

In meat quality, the Nutrition is the most important as the rations fed control the colour, taste, texture and odour of the meat.  They control the animal’s ability to handle stress, and the time required to bring an animal to slaughter.  The younger the animal is slaughter ready, the more tender the meat.

Management systems are also extremely important in controlling meat quality, because any failure in management can result in insufficient feed intake, insufficient water intake, disease control and stress levels.  Insufficient water intake, presence of disease or parasites and stress all result in reduced feed intake and impact on the quality of the meat.

The condition of the animal’s liver and colour of the fat are key indicators of the animals overall health and quality of the meat.  The feed the animal receives directly controls liver condition and fat colour.

Disease Control
The importance of good biosecurity to minimise the risks of disease cannot be over emphasised.  Historically Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Avian Influenza (AI) are probably the diseases that have caused the most disruption to supplies.

An outbreak of NCD or AI in ostrich and/or poultry can shut down movement locally and exports overnight.  AI ended the Israeli Ostrich industry, even though it was not present in their ostrich flock as they were totally dependent on the export market for meat sales as the local population are unable to eat ostrich meat.  Over the years NCD and AI has severely affected the South African industry because they had built their meat sales on the export market.   Australia has also experienced total closure to exports for an extended period because of NCD in poultry.

Chick Mortality has also caused many difficulties in continuity of supply:

Quote "Chick mortality is a serious destroyer with devastating and varied financial implications.   For the last two decades, in all surveys and opinion polls, the vagaries of chick mortality have been listed as enemy number one."  End Quote [1]

There are a number of reasons for chick mortality and these should be clearly understood to ensure correct management to minimise these losses.

Disease disrupts the supply to the market.

Reliability of Supply
Most restaurants set their menus for several months at a time (many for as long as 6 months) and once let down markets are harder to recover.  They cannot afford to to be let down in delivery.

Supermarkets will not tolerate empty shelf space.  Unreliable supplies will result in lost contracts.  Disease is one of the major causes of lack of supply, either as a result of export bans or as a result of high chick mortality.

One other major cause for lack of supply witnessed in Ostrich over the years is the unreliability of egg numbers laid and conversion of those eggs to day old chicks and then survival to slaughter.  Farm management systems must be in place to optimise the numbers of eggs laid and the conversion of those eggs to slaughter birds to ensure continuity and reliability of the supply to the market.

The above illustrates just why marketing starts at the farm.


[1] The South African National Agricultural Marketing Council “Report on the Investigation of the effects of Deregulation of the South African Ostrich Industry” page 33.

The Greatest Threat to our Industry

Newsletter No. 53 - Item 1

These words were written in 2007

A major buyer for Ostrich meat, who has always strived to obtain quality meat, made this statement:

The greatest threat to our industry is the poor quality ostrich meat we continually see

The buyer of a major supermarket chain has stated they are not interested in placing ostrich meat on their shelves again as a direct result of past negative experiences, proving just how true that statement is.  Those negative experiences included consumer resistance and the refusal of the supplier to change their methods of production to meet their customer needs. The supplier implied that the skin is the primary product and they were unable to make those changes, as the changes would have a negative effect on the skins.

A report of the “First International Ostrich Meat Congress” that took place at the end of February 1997 in Oudtshoorn made up item 2 in this newsletter - see below.  The ostrich mailing list was new and very active at the time.  Prior to going to this conference, members of the list were asked for their thoughts on the slow development of the markets, as it was an excellent channel of communication within the industry.

The issues list members had raised were discussed since they were clearly concerns of all those on the front line marketing and hoped would continue to be addressed.  10 years on, the industry faces the same challenges.  If anything, it is worse.

Item 2b discusses the dangers of bad consumer experiences.  Hearing major buyers complaining of the same thing 10 years later indicates that as an industry this serious threat remains a major issue that the industry continues to fail to address on a large enough scale.

Report of First International Ostrich Meat Congress – February, 1997
Published on the ostrich list on 3rd March 1997

Last week NOPSA - The National Ostrich Processors Association of South Africa (NOPSA) hosted The First International Ostrich Meat Congress in Oudtshoorn.  There were 120 delegates from 21 countries.  The week should be seen as a major event in the history of the Ostrich Industry.  It was not a week of delegates simply sitting and listening to a number of papers presented by various speakers - but was an opportunity for those attending to contribute in general discussion.

Three major areas were covered - The Meat (the individual muscles, their names, grades by tenderness etc.), Marketing Strategy and Hides.  The delegates were also given a tour of the Abattoir, Tannery and various farms in the area.

a. The Meat
As a result of the confusion in the market as to the names and degree of tenderness of different muscles it was agreed that an internationally accepted standard should be set.  An international subcommittee was formed.  Before we departed, the Catalogue numbers of each muscle and Latin names had been agreed.  The grading of several muscles and some trade names are still to be agreed.  There is to be a further meeting of the sub committee to me held in Europe to finalise these matters.

Dr. F. Mellet of Stellenbosch University reported on the pH values of the meat and the Anatomy of the muscles.  He noted that the Ostrich shows characteristics of Birds, Mammals and Reptiles.

The statement was made by one speaker that the industry is rapidly moving from the Hides as the primary product, with the meat the by-product to The Meat as the primary Product with the hides the by-product.

b. Marketing Strategy
A good deal of time was attributed to this important subject.   Some statistics were presented on current numbers of birds being slaughtered, number of approved export abattoirs, numbers of birds etc.  However, it was noted that these were compiled with limited data.   Statistics were also shown on the dramatic growth of the Turkey and Chicken Industries in relation to the total meat market.  It was noted that it would take 15million slaughter birds to satisfy 15% of the European market alone.  The conclusion: there is plenty of room for every one and great potential for growth.

There was an excellent presentation covering what the housewife/consumer is looking for, what makes the consumer buy the product and how to create an international awareness.  Great emphasis was also given to the fact that there will be many people over the next few years buying Ostrich for the first time.  If the product is not good and that first experience is a bad one - that consumer may well never try the product again.  It was noted that there has been an inconstancy in the product in the past, which must be addressed.  This inconsistency is most probably a combination of the variety of ages of slaughter birds, the effects of diet, variety in classification between countries of the various muscles etc.

The price, presentation and colour of the meat were also aspects mentioned.  The health aspects were seen as a major priority - the speaker highlighted the fact that we have a free range meat, that the market wants animals reared on feed free of meat source proteins, routine antibiotics, growth hormones etc.

An International Ostrich Association will be formed to promote the industry.  It will prepare the International Meat Buyers Guide along with other sales literature, videos etc.  It will generate and sustain general public awareness campaigns.   The funding will be a combination of levies, profit from sale of promotional materials and any other means that may seem appropriate from time to time.  Some of the funding will go towards research and development.  The levies will be collected by the National Associations - part to be handed across to the International Association with some retained by the National Associations to promote within their individual country as each country has its own unique culture.

Delegates were warned that any bad press or experience regarding Ostrich will reflect on the industry - the consumer does not think of where that Ostrich was - simply the name Ostrich.  It is essential to work together to ensure the quality and consistency of standards.

c. Ostrich Leather
Whilst this was primarily an Ostrich Meat Congress, this important product was certainly not ignored.  The current grading of Ostrich skins was covered in detail.  Mr. Kriek of the KKLK informed the delegates that the industry often complains that the grading is too kind to the producer - but it has been agreed to retain the standard for the next 2 years at least.  It was acknowledged that there are a number of new producers now in the market and there will be a learning curve to achieve the required quality.

Discussion took place on the effect of slaughter age on the hide.  It was acknowledged that the 10mth skin of a well-fed bird is very acceptable and that the 14mth slaughter age has arisen to satisfy the requirements of the feather trade.  There was considerable discussion on the potential effect on price of an increasing number hides and of lower grade skins possibly coming onto the market.  Examples were given of uses of these hides, which no other leather could compete with, therefore allowing the hides to retain a high value.  An analogy was made with the wine industry.  You will have your very high value wines, the plonks and many in-between – all made from the one product - the Grape.

All delegates visited the Tannery and were shown a large range of skins - of differing grades.  A good deal of excellent discussion took place between the delegates during this visit.

The Congress was closed by the South African Minister of Agriculture - Mr. D. Hanekom.  He passed on the message to the South African Industry that he offered his full support to the development of the industry.  He also announced that legislation is now going through to allow the Import and Export of genetic material.

Note the fact that this was 1997 and it was accepted then that skins from 10 month birds (42 weeks old) are acceptable and that the feather industry was driving the later slaughter.  Slaughter birds as late as 60 weeks is simply not commercially viable for a producer producing good quality meat.

2013: That footnote was published in 2007.  This article discussed a conference that took place in South Africa in 1997 just 3 years after the South African industry was deregulated and the early countries to import ostrich were facing the challenge from importing the foundation birds and transition to commercial production.

Processing Costs

Newsletter 48 - Item 3

Newsletter No. 48 discussed processing costs in relation to the country report in Item 1.   Processing is made up of a number of processes and it is important to know which processes are included and at what stage of the process the meat is packaged when costs are quoted to avoid confusion:

-  Slaughter
-  Deboning
-  Muscling Out
-  Deskinning/Demembraning
-  Portioning and other value adding

The following are other factors that influence the costs of processing and need factoring in when costing production.

Other factors that influence processing costs:


  • World production of ostrich remains at a fraction of single production units in other specie which places significant challenges to achieve efficiencies of scale
  • Many are slaughtering very low volumes in multi-specie plants. Management of these slaughter plants will expect to slaughter those birds with sufficient return to make it worth their while.

Staff slaughtering ostrich irregularly:

  • operate more slowly than staff slaughtering ostrich daily
  • make more errors when deskinning (damage to skin and/or muscles)
  • Insufficient volume to optimise a full day's slaughter
  • Equipment is not suitable for ostrich

Regular throughput:

  • South Africa has some of the lowest ostrich slaughter costs, yet a major complaint of abattoir managers is producers cancelling booked delivery of birds at the last minute leaving a plant with reduced numbers at best or no slaughter for the day at worst
  • This has serious knock on effect to the supply chain to customers

Ostrich is seasonal

Egg laying is seasonal.  Past records demonstrate that production systems impact on the length of the laying season. Growing volume will enable further research to quantify the impact of not only production systems but also daylight length at the different latitudes on extending the seasonaly influence on the egg laying time.

Meat Quality and Grading Meat

Newsletter 49 - Item 2

The WOA published a document “Factors Influencing Meat Quality”.  The document covers 10 sections that indicate how many things influence the quality of meat.  The influences are the same for any meat production specie and cover many factors throughout the production chain.  The following graphic comes from the book “Garth Pig Stockmanship Standards” and illustrates well just how many production factors influence meat quality.

Meat Quality

Nutrition, in excess of 60% of the input costs of any commercial livestock production, is at the very top as it has the greatest influence.  Many of the factors referenced are dependent on the correct nutrition.  A breakdown in any one of those factors influences the quality of the meat as received by the consumer.

A visitor recently published this message to the American Ostrich Association public forum on their web site.  The message illustrates again the importance of consistent quality, especially when introducing a totally new meat specie to the marketplace.

Quote: I recently purchased several cuts of ostrich. I am writing an article on ostrich and would feel bad if I didn't at least try to put a positive spin on it. But I cooked the filet to medium as I read was necessary for ostrich and I couldn't take how tough it was. The roast was almost inedible. I tried again by pressure cooking it like I do with tough beef cuts. It just broke down into smaller tough pieces. I haven't touched the ground ostrich. What am I doing wrong? Any cooking suggestions or recipes would be appreciated. Thank you. End quote

One factor missing from the above graphic is ‘age at slaughter’.  It is very possible that this lady purchased meat from an old breeder bird.  There are many reasons why meat can be tough.

The WOA has produced a Carcass Grading System that requires understanding and utilisation for all actively involved in our industry.  Grading a product differentiates quality and enables the setting of prices according to quality.  Grading also enables our customers to identify the level of quality they are purchasing.

International Supermarkets

Newsletter No. 45 – Item 5

Newsletter No. 20, Item 3, discussed the increasing power of the supermarkets and their impact on the agricultural market place.

Newsletter No. 45 focused on just 3 of the major International supermarkets to illustrate how they are developing globally and remembering that they purchase globally from the most efficient producers capable of supplying the volumes they require.  The “green revolution” has made this rapid growth possible enabling production of food at significantly reduced costs in real terms and available to increasing numbers of people.

Republishing in 2013, we will include the original information and updates as appropriate.  At the time of rewriting, we are experiencing a meat scandal in Europe where companies and authtorites have found horse meat in place of beef in a number of processed products.  The scale of the problem is still to be established, but is vast.  It  indicates how few companies today are in the supply chain. The manufacturers producing the processed products supply several brands and brands supply many different countries.  It is the reason why if wishing to start producing ostrich, the scale of operation to supply volume needs understanding.

WalMart, founded in 1962, is the largest retailer in the world and a US owned corporation.  Outside the United States, they wholly own companies in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom but recently sold their retail operations in South Korea and Germany.  They have joint ventures in Japan, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  The 2012 map illutrates their growth into Africa. Their web site to-day state: "Today, Walmart operates more than 10,000 retail units under 69 banners in 27 countries. We employ 2.2 million associates around the world — 1.4 million in the U.S. alone."

Carrefour, founded in 1959, is a French owned supermarket chain, described as the leader in Europe and 2nd worldwide.  According to their web site "As of December 2012, the Carrefour Group operates 9,994 stores in 33 countries".

Carrefour Areas of Operation

Carrefour areas of Operation - 2006

News item published on 20th November, 2006.

Bharti ties retail knot with Wal-Mart
In a scoop appearing in NDTV, telecom major Bharti has finally tied the retail knot with the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart.

Carrefour, the other contender was left in the lurch as a result of aggressive bidding by the former. To get around archaic Indian FDI rules, Bharti will take up the front-end retail operations while Wal-Mart will power the back-end supply chain. For retailing rights, Bharti will pay a royalty to Wal-Mart. As a strategy, an agreement is being sought with a large foreign real estate group for large investments in real estate that will be required.

The deal seems to have the blessings of the Government and industry minister Kamal Nath even promised more liberalized norms for foreign companies investing in the supply chain. Wal-Mart already sources goods worth $1.5 billion. The deal is likely to change the face of modern Indian retailing. The news has already paled into relative insignificance, Reliance’s recent Hyderabad launch”.  Source: (as at Feb 2007)

Tesco, founded in 1919, is the largest British supermarket chain.  The first map below illustrates their international growth.  In addition, they are on target to enter the United States in 2007.

Tesco Areas of Operation

Tesco Areas of Operation 2006

A news item published on 6th October, 2006

Quote:  “Tesco & Carrefour exchange stores
In an unusual but astute business move, Tesco and Carrefour have agreed to swap stores and their operations located in Slovakia and Taiwan.

As part of the deal, 11 Carrefour stores in the Czech Republic and 4 stores in Slovakia will be transferred to Tesco for Euro189mil. In exchange, Carrefour will receive 6 Tesco stores and 2 sites in Taiwan for Euro132mil.

The swap provides Tesco with the opportunity to grow its businesses in the highly competitive Czech and Slovak markets and exit the Taiwanese market where it is lacking critical size.  Source:

This information further illustrates how we are operating in a marketplace that is always changing.

The statement in Item 3 (smallholder agriculture) referenced small producers diversifying.  Many diversified into Ostrich production before development of markets, before identification and development of performance genetics and with no clear leadership.  As can be seen, this move into diversification came at a time of dramatic change in the global agricultural marketplace.

Foot note as at March 2013.  Wikipedia has a page that illustrates the global scale that today's supermarkets now operate.

Commercialising small holder agriculture

Newsletter No. 45 -  Items 2 - 4

This newsletter discussed an article on a page of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) web site in 2007. As the following introductory statement under the heading of Farm Management is so relevant in livestock production, discussing the issues continues to be important to those actively working to develop their business based on ostrich production.

Quote: Powerful driving forces are changing farming systems across the world. Globalisation and market development are opening up new opportunities for farmers and local markets are challenged and sometimes overwhelmed by lower priced imports; the result is rapid commercialisation of smallholder agriculture in many parts of the developing world.

Urbanisation is increasing the number of people for whom food must be produced by farmers, increasingly delivered through supermarkets.  As a consequence, farmers are intensifying existing patterns of production, diversifying into new lines, seeking off-farm work, expanding business size and even existing agriculture in an attempt to improve their livelihoods and escape poverty. End quote

Livestock producers have tended to go in two different directions over the past few decades, driven by the “green revolution” and the effect of "globalisation" that has brought about changes in market delivery.

The progressive farmers adopted the new technologies and management systems, consolidated and produce in volume with increasingly efficient methods of production.  These efficiencies are a combination of:

-    Production technology inputs (e.g. fertiliser, weed killers, vitamins, minerals, pharmaceuticals)
-    Management systems to support that technology (e.g. machinery, computers, records, systems, biosecurity)
-    Genetic improvement in livestock, fruit, vegetable and grain production (e.g. winter hardy seeds, high yielding grains, fast growing pigs, high yielding dairy cows).

The result of introducing these efficiencies in production is increased yields, reduced unit costs of production and greater consistency of products required by the buyers of these supermarket giants.

The illustration from the USDA Farm Policy 2001 document, illustrates how the farm supply chain has changed over a very short period.  Note how during the last 10 year period of the illustration selling moved from 5% selling direct to processors on contract to nearly 70% in the US.  It is likely that this figure has increased further by 2013.  We see similar trends in other regions and across most livestock production.  Contracting provides greater consistency, economies of scale and enables the ever increasing demands for full traceability in the supply chain to be maintained.

Hogs Sold by Marketing Method

Hogs Sold by Marketing Method

Whilst this graphic was produced a decade ago, it illustrates the rapidly changing market place and the influence on the supply chain in all species of livestock production.   Small holders linked into the supply chain for larger enterprises enables the benefits of economies of scale whilst retaining the independence of the small holder….provided that larger enterprise operates in an ethical manner to ensure payment terms that sustains the whole supply chain.