As the largest and heaviest of all living birds, ostriches are truly one of nature’s greatest oddities. And as you’ll soon learn, even their meat is a source of wonder for curious eaters.
Fully grown, ostriches can stand anywhere from 6 to nearly 9 feet tall, and weigh almost 300 pounds. Rather than flying to escape predators, these massive avians use their powerful legs to sprint over 40 miles per hour — or, if worse comes to worst, kick their attackers with incredible force. (source) Amazingly, this hasn’t stopped some intrepid souls from mounting up and racing ostriches at the New Orleans fairgrounds.
All of this high-speed movement means that ostriches develop lots of lean muscle, similar to chickens. But to imagine that ostrich meat tastes just like an oversized chicken would do it a great injustice. So today, we’ll be clearing up any confusion about ostrich meat by introducing you to what it tastes like, where you can buy cuts of ostrich meat online, and how to cook it to delicious perfection.
What Does Ostrich Meat Taste Like?
The secret in ostrich meat’s versatility in the kitchen comes from its combination of lean muscle and red meat. Unlike other bird species that are raised for their meat (chickens, ducks, sparrows, etc.), ostriches belong to a category of birds known as ratites. In this group that includes emus and cassowaries, all of the birds have dark meat, with a texture and taste akin to lean beef.
Tom Mendelsohn, of the UK-based publication The Independent, has this to say of the taste of ostrich meat:
It’s quite gamey and has a pronounced tang, and is much stronger than a chicken or beef.”(source)
He goes on to warn the would-be diner that because of the lower fat content, the meat is prone to overcooking and becoming quite chewy. Like many other lean meats, ostrich can benefit from a variety of cooking methods designed to keep it tender and flavorful, a few of which we’ll cover in the next section.
Aside from the steak-like taste and texture, it’s worth noting that ostrich meat has a range of health and environmental advantages over beef. For the diet-conscious consumer, ostrich meat is much lower in cholesterol than beef, while also being richer in iron. And for the aspiring environmentalist, ostrich farming requires less water and releases less methane into the atmosphere. Here is ostrich farmer Alex McCoy’s estimation of the importance of ostrich meat in dealing with climate change:
By incorporating ostrich into your diet, you’re doing way more to fight the cause of global warming than driving your car less, flying less, or taking shorter showers. That’s small potatoes compared to the meat you put on your plate.”(source)
Ostrich Meat Nutrition
Ostrich meat has less fat than many other types of red meat, but still provides much higher levels of iron than chicken meat. It is also thought to be less greasy and sweeter than beef or pork, making it easier for those with fewer teeth to chew. However, while ostrich meat has less total fat than chicken, it has just as much saturated fat.
Ostrich meat is often touted for its leanness and low-fat content, but it has just as much saturated fat as any other type of red meat. For example, one 3 oz (~85 grams) serving of ostrich steak provides about 143 calories.
Different Types of Ostriches for Meat
Raising ostriches for eating is not very common in the US but is obviously more popular in Africa where they are killed for their meat.
Ostriches raised for meat are generally slaughtered when they reach 18 months old, which makes it possible to raise them both on farms and free range without causing too much stress or overcrowding.
The feathers are plucked after slaughter, revealing what looks like large bones with tender, delicious dark meat. Common seasoning added to this meat includes herbs such as tarragon, thyme and sage, along with lots of salt and pepper. You can also choose an Asian flavor by adding teriyaki sauce made from soy sauce, rice wine and other spices.
This is the African sub-species of the ostrich. They are raised for their meat and some people raise them to sell the feathers.
Struthio camelus can grow up to 8 feet tall, which helps when it comes to hiding from predators in the wild. They weigh about 220 pounds when they reach maturity, but will vary depending on what area of Africa they come from.
The roosters (male ostriches) are known for their beautiful mating dance, which can last up to 20 minutes. They will chase the female around while beating their wings on the ground until she submits.
Struthio camelus meat is plump and light in flavor with a texture that has been described as similar to veal or chitlins (pig intestines).
Smaller ostriches are also raised in Australia, South Africa and the US for egg production when they reach maturity at about 18 months old. The males (roosters) are larger than the females (hens), but neither one is good to eat because their meat is tough and chewy.
Struthio camelus domesticus
Known as the “petite version” of the ostrich, this is a smaller breed that’s raised for meat production in France and Italy. The downside to eating these birds is that their meat isn’t as tender as other types because they have been selectively bred for their looks and not for eating.
This isn’t the type of animal you want to eat if you’re looking to gain any health benefits or protein from your meal. The flavor is best described as dry and bland, making it something that will require a lot of sauce in order to make it taste better.
Struthio Camelus Natalensis
This is the second largest kind of ostrich, making it an ideal meat source for those looking to buy something that has more than just a little flavor.
These birds spend most of their time feeding on grasses, seeds and insects. The taste is described as slightly sweet but very dry, making it difficult to recommend as a good meat option unless you’re looking to entertain guests or just want something new to try.
Struthio Camelus Masaicus
This is the smallest type of ostrich and is found in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
As far as taste goes, the masai ostrich reminds people of a cross between beef and venison.
Most of this type of ostrich is processed into sausages or burgers, but some meat is sold with the bone still inside. The high amount of collagen in these birds means that they taste better when boiled rather than roasted or fried.
Risks and Considerations For Eating Ostrich Meat
The meat that comes from an ostrich is not always fully edible because of the way they are killed. The risks in eating this type of meat come down to two separate things. First, when they are put down in order to be slaughtered, sometimes the brain is damaged and infections can occur throughout the rest of the body, including their muscles. Second, the types of parasites that are known to be found in an ostrich’s intestines can cause many issues for those who eat it.
If you’re planning on eating ostrich meat, just make sure that the ostrich hasn’t been severally injured during the slaughtering process. If they have, then there is a higher likelihood of parasites being in their muscles. However, if they are healthy and show no signs of infection or parasites, then you can enjoy the ostrich meat to the fullest extent without having any adverse side effects.
If you’re not planning on cooking an ostrich yourself, there are plenty of options out there for where you can buy ostrich meat. It is usually found in high-end, but not exclusively so. The best place to look for ostrich meat would be at a supermarket that specializes in providing rare types of meats.
How to Cook Ostrich Meat
Thanks to its status as “the other red meat”, ostrich can easily be a stand-in for lean beef in nearly any application. From steaks to tenderloins to ground meat and burgers, if you can do it beef you can do it with ostrich meat, too!
Because of their low fat content and somewhat more astringent and gamey flavor though, ostrich benefits greatly from the added flavor and tenderizing qualities of a good marinade. So today, I’ll be sharing two easy ostrich meat marinades with you: One that’s best for steaks, and the other an Asian-inspired delight that works perfectly for ostrich roasts.
Easy Ostrich Steak Marinade
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
This mix makes enough marinade for approximately two ostrich steaks, and the recipe is easy to double if you need more.
To prepare, simply mix every ingredient together in a resealable plastic bag, then add the ostrich steaks. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing, as this will help the marinade stay in contact with the steaks. Marinate at least overnight, and cook your steaks on the side of rare to medium-rare to retain maximum flavor and a softer texture.
Asian-Inspired Ostrich Roast Marinade
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Ideal for preparation in a slow cooker, this recipe provides enough marinade for a 3-pound ostrich roast. All you’ll need to do is whisk the brown sugar into the stock before combining all the other ingredients. Cover your roast with the marinade overnight in a sealed container, then add everything to the slow cooker the next day. Cook for 6 hours on high, and you’ll have a wonderfully fragrant and amazingly tender ostrich roast for dinner!
Types of Meals to Make With Ostrich Meat
Ostrich meat is very flexible when it comes to using it in recipes. It can be prepared in many different ways, which include roasted , boiled or fried. If you are just starting out with ostrich meat, stick to one of these cooking methods instead of grilling because the meat is tougher than most other kinds of meat available. You can find countless recipes online that will teach you how to prepare your ostrich meat. If you are a beginner at cooking ostrich, stick with a simple recipe and omit any spices or seasonings until you get the hang of it.
Where to Buy Ostrich Meat
While raising ostriches for meat has never taken off in the United States in the same way that cattle farming has, there are a handful of dedicated farmers that make the meat available for purchase year-round.
American Ostrich Farms, out of Boise, Idaho, specializes in producing environmentally friendly ostrich meat using entirely sustainable agriculture methods. They offer the whole range of ostrich-based products, from fine filet cuts to ground ostrich and delicacies like racks of ostrich ribs or ostrich wings. You can even find ostrich soaps, or an ostrich leather wallet to give as a gift!
Though they have the largest selection of ostrich products, steaks and specialty items tend to go out of stack fast. You might want to sign up for their email updates if you’re looking for a specific cut.
Alternatively, consider Blackwing Quality Meats, a provider of fine meats from well over a dozen varieties of animals. Their ostrich hot dogs are especially interesting, and their portioned filets or tenderloins. are perfect for cooking with the marinade recipes above.
FAQs about Ostrich Meat
Here are some common questions about ostrich meat.
Where does most ostrich meat come from?
Most ostrich meat is imported from South Africa where it is raised on large ostrich farm ranches.
Does ostrich taste like chicken?
Interestingly, ostrich meat typically tastes like beef since it is low in fat and higher in protein than other types of poultry.
What does ostrich meat look like?
Ostrich meat comes in a variety of colors. It looks like turkey meat and is slightly more red, making it visually appealing to some people.
Why is ostrich meat red colored?
This is because the ostrich has a diet that consists entirely of plants and worms, unlike other meat that comes from animals that have eaten red meat or had red dye in their feed.
The only thing they consume is plants and worms, so they have no hemoglobin in their muscles which is what makes them look red.
What is ostrich meat good for?
Ostrich meat is a great protein to consume because it has a low fat content, which helps with weight loss and the maintenance of muscle mass. They are also egg-free and gluten-free, which makes them an excellent option for many people who have food allergies or intolerance to “unhealthy” foods.
Ostrich meat would be good for someone who is looking for a healthier option of red meat, which provides the same amount of proteins while being lower in calories and fats. They’re also a good source of iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12 while being high in cholesterol.
Overall, is ostrich meat eco friendly?
Overall, ostrich meat is eco friendly because it has no damage to the environment when being farmed.
Ostrich are usually raised in Africa on large swathes of land so they don’t have to compete with other animals for food or water sources. Plus, there are more of them around than cattle – allowing more of the earth’s natural resources to be left alone – and they produce less methane gas than cows do. Ostrich also have a higher tolerance for extreme temperatures making it one sustainable option if global warming continues on an upward trend.