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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Celebrate the Multi-purpose Emu

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Farm-raised emus can provide a number of products, including beautiful, large, green eggs. Photo courtesy Adam Axon/flickr
Courtesy Adam Axon/flickr
Farm-raised emus can provide a number of products, including beautiful, large, green eggs.

Have you ever seen an emu? If so, a distinct image probably jumps to mind: a curious, flightless bird towering at 5 to 6 feet tall. In the same family as the ostrich or kiwi, the emu is more than a cute oddity—it is one of the most practical, versatile livestock around, yielding not only healthy, low-fat, iron-packed red meat, but also unique oil, unusual feathers, leather hide and beautiful, large, green eggs. "National Emu Week” runs May 4 to 12, 2013, with events and educational outreach across the country to build awareness about this engaging bird.

"You can hear echoes direct from the Australian Outback as you come up our driveway as the emus welcome you with their unusual booming and grunting sounds,” says Joylene Reavis, a local farmer friend who, along with her husband, Michael, runs Sugar Maple Emu Farm in Brodhead, Wis.

Since 1995, the duo served as passionate educators on all things emu and will be hosting a public open house this Saturday, May 11, 2013 in conjunction with National Emu Week and the Brodhead Tour the Farms Day.

"There will be events around the country this week to introduce folks to these amazing creatures to both connect folks with sources of emu products and potentially even spark interest for others to take on raising emus,” Reavis says.

One of the biggest appeals of raising emus is the heart-healthy aspects of their red meat.

"Laboratory studies have found that emu meat is lower in fat and higher in protein than other alternative red meats, as well as chicken,” Reavis says. "Emu meat is appealing because of its mild flavor and the fact that it can be easily prepared, just like you would any lean, red meat in things like burgers, steaks, roasts, brats, sandwich meats or used in ground meat casseroles or my favorite, barbeque-style.” (See her recipe below.)

For small hobby farms looking to diversify, emus offer one-stop shopping. In their native habitat, emus can be found anywhere from deserts to snowy mountains, and domestically you can raise one to two pairs and all their offspring on 1 acre of land.

Emus are processed for meat at 16 months of age. Their oil has been used in a variety of cosmetic and medicinal ways, particularly as a moisturizer and anti-inflammatory to combat the aging process. It comes from a thick pad of fat on the emu’s back to help it adapt to the extreme temperatures of its native Australia. Emus also provide leather via their hide and gorgeous, deep-green eggs that can be used in cooking, as well as blown out for crafts.

For more information on emus, including getting started in raising these birds, check out the American Emu Association. The Wisconsin Emu Association has a listing of emu events happening throughout the state, including the tour at Sugar Maple Emu Farm.

Recipe: Emu Barbeque
Recipe from Sugar Maple Emu Farm in Brodhead, Wis.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 T. canola oil
  • 1 pound ground emu (Lean ground beef can be substituted if emu meat is not available.)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion

Preparation
In small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar and lemon juice. Add mustard and Worcestershire sauce, and blend well. Mix in ketchup.

In a skillet over medium heat, brown ground meat and onion in canola oil. When browned, lower heat and add mixed ingredients. Heat thoroughly.

Serve on buns.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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