Archive for Ostrich Meat

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.

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.

South African Avian Influenza

A new case of avian influenza was reported this week (April 2013) in South Africa.   To put this outbreak into context it maybe helpful to provide a reminder of the situation over the past couple of years as it has had a major impact on all working to build their business based on ostrich, no matter where they are positioned in the supply/value chain.

Avian Influenza resulted in the South African Ostrich Industry closing their borders to exports of their meat, eggs, chicks and live birds in April 2011, when H5N2 was first identified as officially reported to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) here.  Over the months since then, their veterinary services have filed 13 follow up reports with the last filed in October 2012.

In February 2012 an intitial report for an outbreak of H7N1 was filed - that report is available here with no follow up reports yet filed.   This is the strain reported in the media this week as found on one farm.  To date the follow up report relating to this new outbreak is not yet filed with the OIE as it is early days.

The May 2012 newsletter reported on how the South African ostrich industry were overcoming the export ban on raw meat to Europe by developing heat treated meat as the ban relates to raw meat only.  The press reports state that provided the meat is pre-cooked for 3 seconds at 70 degrees centigrade, it is stated as acceptable for export.  They report that whilst the price is lower than raw meat, the products ensure uninterrupted exports.

The continuation of Avian Influenza in their flock however, does delay the ability for export of eggs, chicks and breeder birds thus opening up opportunities for all with ostrich outside South Africa.

Size of Ostrich Meat Market

Newsletter No. 57 - Items 2 - 3

This newsletter contained signficant data on meat consumption in all regions to illustrate the market potential for ostrich meat and attempt to answer the question "what is the size of the ostrich meat market?"

World Meat Consumption Data

The FAO have been updating their database system and providing improved data, with a greater breakdown of the alternative meats, the market that Ostrich are sold into when doing a request for consumption of all meat.  Previously we had Bovine, Pigs, Sheep and Goat, Poultry and other meats.  Today, Turkey and Chicken meat have separate categories.  Duck, Goose and Guinea Fowl also have their own separate category. Ostrich, because of the low levels of production, currently fall into ‘Other meats’, not elsewhere classified (inc. Camel and game).

We are continually asked about the size of our markets.   Therefore this month’s newsletter will focus on publishing the data with further discussion on how to establish the size of the market.  I have downloaded some of the most relevant consumption data and graphed it for easy analyses.  I have printed them in a pdf document and can be viewed here.  That document formed a supplement to this newsletter. The statistics are not direct comparisons to those published in earlier newsletters as the format in which they are now presented and the country groupings have changed with the new database.

Market Size

There are two aspects when discussing market size.

a.         Existing Market
The ostrich meat has been available for sale for no more than 15 years, with limited production and sales slow to develop as a result of such things as :

  • Low volume
  • Inconsistent quality
  • Inconsistent supply
    • Aggravated by interrupted exports from South Africa as a result of Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease and Congo Fever
  • Fragmented supply
  • Limited marketing

b.         Potential Market
Understanding the potential market should be the area of focus in order to develop a sustainable industry, provided there is production to support the development and the meat produced to an acceptable quality, consistently supplied and at the right price.

Figure 1 confirms the continual rapid growth of meat consumption that continues to be driven by increasing wealth in developing countries.  The total meat market (excluding fish) has grown from in excess of 150 million tonnes in 1990 to 240 million tonnes in 2005.  That is a growth rate of almost 60% in 15 years, thus confirming the predictions of significant growth in meat consumption.

World Meat Consumption

Figure 1 - Size of Ostrich Market

The consumption of all other meats Rabbit, Equine, “Duck Goose and Guinea Fowl” and “Meat Not Elsewhere Classified (including camel and game)” - as illustrated in Figure 1 - is a very small percentage of the total consumption.  The major reason for this is the lack of efficiencies in production of those species that make up that group.  However, it is still a group showing rapid growth, moving from just short of 8 million tonnes to in excess of 13 million tonnes over 15 years (Figure 2).

meat consumption by region

Figure 2 - Meat Consumption by Region

Figure 2 illustrates the regional distribution of consumption of other meats.   A PDF supplement to this newsletter contains a number of graphics as detailed in Table 1.   We are a World Association, therefore it is important to reflect the variations in consumption by region as our markets are all different.  Slide 6 illustrates the consumption of other meats in the different regions and, when studied, readers will be amazed at the significant variations from region to region.   No two regions are the same.


Table 1 - Supplement Index

So what is the size of the potential size of the market?  To capture just 1% of the world 2005 alternative meat market requires nearly 3m slaughter ostriches/annum.

What is the size of your market potential?

The answer to that question depends on a number of factors - such as:

  • Location
    • Local Market
    • Export market
      • If export market, which market and can you meet the protocols required
  • Identifying your target market
    • Red meat market
    • Low fat meat
    • Cheap meat – commodity market
      • Buyers on open market with limited (if any) supplier loyalty
      • Low price
    • Exclusive Meat – low supply seeking product differentiation
      • Seeking specialty product
      • Recognises need to pay premium price
      • Requires confirmed consistency of supply
  • Production costs
    • Influence selling price required for profitability
  • Ability to supply consistently
    • With Ostrich this requires production systems that ensure:
    • Consistent egg laying
    • Consistent hatchability
    • Minimal mortality
    • Consistent days to slaughter required to achieve meat yields
  • Quality of product for target market
  • Selling price sufficient to sustain consistent supply

Understanding fully the controlling influences of that final point is the key to progressing this industry and to date remains the barrier to progress.

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.


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.

Breeding for Meat Quality and High Yield Products

Newsletter No 50 - Item 3

Breeding for Meat Quality and High Yield Products is an article written by a major poultry genetic specialist company.  The introduction states:

Quote: At Cobb, we understand how the quality of these traits impacts on our customers’ profits and for the last two decades we have invested millions of dollars in developing a higher yielding broiler, with breast meat yield increasing 6% of live weight. Our research and development team will continue progressing to keep pace with demands for increased yield and meat quality as well as various aspects of fillet shape, all in an effort to increase white meat yield and sizing yields for our customers. End Quote

This article is discussing the increased weight of breast meat as a percentage of liveweight because it is more valuable than the leg and wing meat.  Take the Fan – OS1046 as an example with Ostrich as a high value muscle because its size makes it a very versatile muscle.  This muscle currently varies enormously and the longer, deeper framed birds will produce a much larger Fan than birds of a more torpedo shape and poor frame development.  The article “The Potential Meat Yield of Ostrich” proves that as an industry, we can more than double the current average meat yields of ostrich and we can do it in many fewer days to slaughter than is the current average.

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.