Archive for Ostrich Products

Amendments to Ostrich Meat Trading with the EU

The EU published some important amendments relating to ratite meat importation into the EU earlier this year. You can read on line or download the changes that have been made - in your own language here.  The document is entitled: COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) No 166/2014 of 17 February 2014 amending Regulation (EC) No 798/2008 as regards certification requirements for imports into the Union of meat of farmed ratites for human consumption and the entries for Israel and South Africa in the list of third countries or territories.

This is a direct link to the English PDF version, which includes the updated “Model Veterinary Certificate" required for meat of farmed ratites for human consumption (RAT).

Both Israel and South Africa have experienced Avian Influenza outbreaks. The new regulations enable export of meat from approved closed farms. The regulations are extremely strict and designed to minimise risk of infection from the wild bird populations as ratites are farmed outdoors.

Meat from those ostrich farms that are within the 100km range of the coast may not be exported fresh to the EU and must undergo heat treatment prior to exporting.

Research May Give Ostrich Industry New Wings

This article published in January, discusses how the quality of ostrich feathers is a key indicator to healthier chicks.  Ostrich feather quality is a key indicator to health in the same manner the sheen on the coat of all livestock and pets indicate overall health.  Good Health and production potential is all down to good management with the most important element – adequate nutrients fed.

Having lived and farmed ostriches in South Africa, the problems in the South African Ostrich industry have come as little surprise.  A few quotes from the article:

Quote: research from Stellenbosch University shows that the brighter the white wing tip, the better the bird. End Quote

Quote:  The finding points the way to breeding chicks that are more resistant to disease — possibly even to the avian influenza that has severely curbed the industry, causing losses of up to R1.5bn since the European Union (EU) stopped importing raw ostrich meat. The EU used to import about 80% of South Africa’s ostrich meat. End Quote

Quote:  Stellenbosch University behavioural ecologist Maud Bonato said there is "potential" to breed birds that are more resistant to avian influenza, although proving this is difficult as "you can’t just inject birds with avian flu". End Quote

Quote:  the finding is "quite exciting, it’s quite powerful … it has significance for the breeding of chicks better able to resist disease". End Quote

The peer-reviewed published research  was reported to show Quote:   "the coloration of the father’s white feathers … (predicted the offspring’s) immune response to typical avian diseases such as diphtheria, while the coloration of both the father’s white feathers and bill predicted offspring growth rate". End Quote

Quote: The scientists also proved that ostrich hens laid heavier eggs when mated with males with brighter feathers. End Quote

Quote:  “less than 100,000 birds would be slaughtered this year, down from 250,000 birds in 2011.”

While writing this article I put “Ostrich Production” into our search engine.  This is the list of the articles it produced on just the first page. I had the option to go further – but I think this list illustrates just how low level that area of research is in comparison to the real evidence?

Optimising Genetic Performance in Ostrich Production

World Ostrich Production Statistics

Establishing Bench Mark Targets for Ostrich

Purchasing Ostrich Eggs and Chicks

Purpose of the World Ostrich Association

Guidelines to Evaluate Ostrich Bird Size and Development

The Ostrich Financial Cycle

Ostrich Growth Curve Discussion

Growth Curves of Ostrich

The Ostrich Value Pyramid

The photo below is a great bench mark illustration of how brilliant healthy ostrich feathers can look.  This is a Red Male in the US around 1995.  The farmer holding those feathers alongside the bird is 1.9m (6ft 3”).

Bird114 1

Ostrich Financial Cycle

The World Ostrich Association was formed in September, 2002.  The 100th edition of the newsletter was first published in July 2011.  It reported, with regret, that the industry continued to witness slow development in production when demand for our products remains strong.   It reported how over the years the newsletters have discussed many of the reasons for this.

The saying "No Production No Industry" is proving to be so true - a statement made by a speaker more than a decade ago by an MD of a South African tannery who was working hard to build a market....and frustrated by the unreliability of production.  The production on farm has to be in place, efficiently producing sufficient number of birds to provide a regular, consistent supply to the markets.

The illustration below is a simplistic illustration that clearly shows the interdependency of all activities in the production chain and the importance of ensuring end markets.  The relevance of this is that all too often ostrich farming was introduced to a new country, too much focus was placed on selling offspring to new farmers - rather than developing the full infrastructure to ensure slaughter and marketing of the products of ostrich were in place.  This resulted in no continuity of sales revenue entering the industry generating profits available for each sector to re-invest at every step of the way to support further production.

Ostrich Financial Cycle

Ostrich Finacial Cycle

Where sales have developed, the standards of farming were too poor to maintain consistency of supply of slaughter birds and therefore the supply of product.  This is especially evident in South Africa where volume was not the issue further proving that whilst production standards remain poor on farm, it is impossible to produce the commercially viable birds and a sustainable supply of product to the markets.

Understanding the causes for the poor production remains the first step to putting in place the solutions to satisfy the market's interest in our products.

Ostrich Growth Curve Discussion

Recently we discussed comparative growth curves published for ostrich and how they illustrate a lack of will to investigate reasons for potential to improve current performance.   When viewed in the backdrop of the Klein Karoo Kooperasie (KKK) wishing to contain production the maintain skins at a high value, the reason becomes clearer.

So was it incompetence by those scientists discussed who reduced the Gompertz growth curve expectations?   The following information can enable readers to draw their own conclusions.  The following are excerpts from internal reports published by The First National Bank of South Africa (FNB).  They were investigations into the industry carried out in 1990, 1993 and 1995 to assess the impact of deregulation on the industry.  Remember that until November 1994 farmers' could only supply the KKK and only the KKK could market ostrich products by law in South Africa.

3 excerpts - one from each report:

FNB Report 1990

FNB Report 1990

FNB Report 1993

FNB Report 1993

FNB Report 1995

FNB Report 1995

Since those reports were published the KKK has changed from a co-operative to a corporation trading under a number of different names best known today as the Klein Karoo Group of Companies.


Product Differentiation

Our last blog discussed the need to develop product differentiation to maintain/increase value as volumes increase.   The following are examples of ways to create product differentiation.

Quality Marks and Standards:
At its simplest the grade of your skin and meat represents different values in the market place.  The WOA have guide grading standards for Leather and Meat as the relate to Ostrich

Country or Region of Origin:
- Red Tractor Scheme assures certain welfare standards as well as guarantee raised in UK
- Canadian Salmon, Cold Water Prawns, whilst not certification schemes, they indicate source of supply.
- Melton Mowbray Pork Pie and Champagne are examples of produce that the region of production has created very specific differentiation with the regional name protected by law when marketing.

Best Practice vs Good Practice
- Best Practice is leading edge thinking, practically applied which brings competitive advantage
- Good Practice is valuable and important but is becoming too big to bring competitive advantage with the mainstream agriculture. It provides a first step for ostrich producers in product differentiation.

A practical example in meat production of Good Practice and Best Practice is the introduction of Vitamin E Beef.   When this technology was first introduced those that implemented Vitamin E technology to control meat colour had the competitive advantage producing better meat colour with a longer shelf life.  Today that has become common good practice in beef production.  It is available in Ostrich production, but not yet implemented as common practice.

Certification Schemes
These include membership of certification schemes that provide further differentiation in the market place such as:

There is a cost to implementing these various quality marks and standards, costs that are more easily met when working with sufficient volume to support those costs.   Producers working in collaboration can work together to clearly defined standards.

What Age Black Feathers?

Newsletter No. 93

This newsletter (December 2010) covered the sad news of the death of Steve Warrington, the founder of Ostriches on Line. Steve visited the farm and was taking the photo below as these chicks were clearly showing black feathering, but yet, as can be seen from their neck feathering, they were young birds, yet well grown with good muscle.   Of particular interest at the time was the fact that his South African raw feather dealer was stating that he had never seen black feathers starting to develop in birds under 365 days old.


300 Day Old birds

Back then the industry talked only in months, rarely weeks and never days of age when talking time to slaughter.  It is normal to measure age of slaughter livestock in days as every additional day an animal is held from slaughter the greater the costs of rearing...not only on feed but also infrastructure requirements, labour and other incidental costs.  And of course working capital requirements as a result of not only the increased time to slaughter but also the delay in revenue received.

Black feathering in young birds

240 Day Old birds illustrating black feathering

Above is a photo of two test birds taken at random from their relative age groups.  Both birds are classified as African Black.  The bird in the foreground was 240 days old at time of slaughter.  The start of the black feathering development is clearly visible.

This clearly demonstrates the potential for improved growth rates when improved nutritional inputs are combined with improved management systems and this is still working with primary breeding stock before any genetic development work has taken place.   It clearly illustrates the untapped commercial potential of ostrich.

Ostrich Value Chain – 1

Newsletter No. 74

The items in this newsletter discussed a new develpment that provided a great practical example of a value chain and the importance of working in a collaborative manner.  For ease of reading in the blog environment, we will split the segments over several blogs.

We receive many emails from people asking for assistance when wishing to join the industry – usually as a farmer.  The first question we always ask is “what is the scale you wish to enter?” and "is there an infrastructure in place to slip into?".  If the answer is no sufficient resources are required to build the infrastructure, volume required for viability and market development.

Unfortunately as our industry has developed over the last couple of decades, the approach has generally been to sell a trio or a few chicks to new farmers before the building of sufficient infrastructure to support new producers.   Earlier newsletters have discussed the principals and importance of value chains.  A new initiative came into being in March (2008) that incorporates those principles and illustrates one route to accomplish them.

Developments in Southern Africa
Many of you will be familiar with the ostrich operation run by Peter Cunningham in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.  In recent years a project based on this operation has been developed to help small farmers into viable ostrich production in South Africa.  They have recently published their business plan and presentation on the internet, the company started trading under the current infrastructure in March.  The home page is (web site no longer active).  The plan addresses many of the issues required to provide sufficient infrastructure to support small producers.  They list the following key points as barriers to entry for small farmers:

a)   Lack of infrastructure & collateral for production loans

b)   Lack of Industry and market information

c)   Lack of technical knowledge and experience

d)   High Industry entry costs

e)   Inability to supply high volumes demanded by the industry

f)    Inability to comply to quality standards and registration requirements for market access

The above list can be consolidated into 3 major areas that we will discuss in this newsletter.

Before investing in ostrich farming or an ostrich project, it is extremely important to know the markets to be serviced as different markets have different requirements relating to such things as:

a) State Veterinary Requirements
b) Buyer Veterinary Requirements
c) Type of Meat Cuts, Skin, Fat etc.
d) Traceability
e) Residue Testing

This business plan illustrates just how important knowing your markets is before building the infrastructure.  For example their target market is the EU and to supply that market the supplying farms require registration by the EU, so it will be essential to know the regulations prior to construction. You will note the requirement of quarantine pens.  These are required in Southern Africa to satisfy the EU in relation to Congo Fever, a tick born infection.

Even when supplying domestic markets only, it will still be essential to know the requirements of the local veterinary authorities and local buyers.  Do your buyers require you to be part of an assurance scheme, if they do, what are the requirements?  Assurance schemes are discussed here and here.

Frozen Meat Markets

Newsletter No. 72 - Item 4

An article entitled “Frozen foods benefiting from recession” discusses the increase in popularity of frozen foods as one method consumers are using to help reduce food costs in the recession.  This can be considered encouraging news for Ostrich with the current limited, irregular and seasonal supplies.  It is simpler to supply a frozen product than a fresh meat product.  However, care must still be taken to ensure the product is of the highest quality.

Reading the article reminded me of an email that came from a consumer based in the US earlier this month (Feb 2009):

“Hi! I recently took out a couple burgers from the freezer. After defrosting, I cooked one on Friday night, and saved the other for Saturday.   However, when I took the other out to cook, it had gone bad!  I could tell because it developed a strong smell.  I should mention that I kept both burgers in the freezer until bringing them out to cook. Also, I believe that both were all natural and therefore had no nitrates.   So I was just wondering if it's fairly common for ostrich meat to go bad that quickly or perhaps was it just because they were untreated.”

It does not matter which specie, the principles that determine the keeping quality are the same for all meats.  There are two major factors that influence keeping quality, one is the diet the animal was fed in the months prior to slaughter and the other is the slaughter processes including hygiene at slaughter.  If there is a failure in these factors there will be an impact on the keeping quality of the meat.   The challenge we still have with ostrich is that the low volume does not yet enable most production units to provide adequate nutrients to the birds to ensure a reasonable shelf life of the meat.

Our Chairman, Stan Stewart, has slaughtered ostrich from different feed and management regimes over the years as he slaughtered not only his own birds, but also birds of other producers.  He observed variations in the keeping time of meat that were quite significant, from as little as 5 days to in excess of 5 weeks.  These observations made under the same slaughter and hygiene conditions.  The variable was the different nutritional program of the different farms.

When working to establish a new product in the market place it is regrettable that such experiences happen.  Through communication producers, processors and marketers can be kept aware that there is this problem (it has been around for many years), and then steps can be taken to fix the problem.  It is more difficult to fix when working on the very small scale we still experience with ostrich by comparison to other specie because of the higher costs associated with lack of economies of scale.

This communication provides a timely reminder to remember the document “The World Ostrich Association Factors that Influencing Meat Quality”.

Food Labelling and SMEs

Newsletter No. 72 - Item 3

The laws relating to the labelling of our foods are becoming increasingly stricter.

Wearing the hat of a consumer, the more I know about the ingredients that are in the food I eat, the happier I am, because of the ever increasing number of ingredients not naturally in our foods.  These ingredients have been developed and progressively introduced into the manufacturing process over the years.  Adding value to basic ingredients by processing foods has enabled companies to increase profitability.  To achieve this requires foods to taste good after undergoing industrial scale cooking and have extended shelf life.  This has led to the introduction of less than desirable ingredients added to our foods not only to meet those criteria mentioned but all too often to bulk the food up with low cost and nutritionally inadequate ingredients to increase profits.

Wearing the hat of a small company producing and marketing produce, this presents additional costs of production that will cost the same per product regardless of the company’s turnover – thus increasing the unit production costs for the smaller company.  This article “Labelling Law Costs for SMEs raise concerns” suggests that the cost is Euro400 per individual product.  The impact of these costs is significantly greater for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) with limited turnover when compared to the multi-nationals and large enterprises with high volume numbers of individual products.

 A quote from the article:

 “Food and drink make up the largest manufacturing sector in the EU, with a turnover of €913bn in 2007. Only 0.9 per cent of companies are classified as ‘large’, with 250 employees and over, but they provided 51.5 per cent of turnover”.

This is another cost that must be recognised by any wishing to market into the EU or any other region with strictly enforced labelling regulations in place.

Ostrich Meat Nutritional Value

Newsletter No. 72 - Item 1

This newsletter published in 2009 reported a request to the British Domesticated Ostrich Association (BDOA) received for the nutritional value of Ostrich Meat.  Quoting the words:

“I have seen the energy, fat and protein figures on the BDOA website. By any chance do you also have figures for carbohydrate and sodium? I am analysing some ostrich recipes we are using in our business and the food tables I use have no information on ostrich. Any further information would therefore be appreciated”.

The writer is a nutritionist from a very large catering organisation covering high end corporate entertainment, restaurants, company catering and canteens.   Companies of this size, as you can see from the message, normally obtain the nutritional information from published food tables.  Ostrich have insufficient volume to yet be included.  Ensuring this type of information is in the public domain and reliable, is a service an industry association, such as the WOA can provide.  However, to achieve the funding required to support such a service requires adequate support from the commercial members from the industry the association represents – they have to work in partnership.  Our industry has some way to go before we have sufficient volume of commercial companies of any size to achieve that – but that must be our goal.

Meat does not contain any meaningful levels of carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruit and vegetables at levels that are important and can be very high.  I checked the different scientific papers I have with meat sodium levels.

To answer her question on sodium levels I found the lowest sodium figure was 43mg/100g and the highest recorded was 80mg/100g and many values in between those extremes.  One of the papers was published by Jaroslaw Horbanczuk and James Sales under the title of “Characteristics and Nutritive Value of Ostrich Meat with some references to the already recognised effects of feeding” that made this statement:

“The low sodium content of ostrich meat (43mg/100g) as compared to beef (63 mg) or chicken (77mg/100g (Sales and Hayes 1996) would be advantage for people who have to consume a low sodium diet..................”

Some years ago I found similar variations in papers on cholesterol levels in ostrich meat published by the same scientist.   When I asked the author the reason for these variations, he was not sure as he accepted using data from other papers as well as his own work.  He did comment that the variations can be dietary and that some was cooked meat and other was not.

This identifies the problem of papers that report results, but fail to qualify the details of the studies producing the referenced results.  This is true with many such documents and not confined to ostrich, but extremely prevalent in papers related to Ostrich because there are so few studies and many variables that influence the results.