26 April 1996

UK ostrich in short supply

By Michael Gaisford

BRITISH produced ostrich meat, for which an upsurge in demand has occurred since the BSE beef scare, is in short supply.

Supermarkets like Sainsburys and Tesco, which have recently added ostrich to the range of red meats on their shelves cannot get sufficient from Britain, and are now sourcing ostrich meat from the US and elsewhere.

Other specialist ostrich meat marketeers are importing it from France due to the lack of home-produced product available.

"We are still waiting for an English abattoir to start handling ostriches, and are importing from the only EC-approved abattoir source of ostrich meat, which is in France," says Christina Basker-ville, marketing director of speciality meat firm, Barrow Boar, south Barrow, Yeovil, Somerset.

She says that demand for all speciality red meats has increased since the latest BSE scare, but does not consider that ostrich meat, retailing at £11.95/kg (£5.42/lb) for leg steaks and £13/kg (£5.89/lb) for fillets, will ever become an everyday alternative to beef.

"We will see ostrich meat catering for a niche market. It is just too expensive for the mass market," says Ms Baskerville.

"There is still a good potential for British farmers to produce ostrich meat, but they must remember that several other countries are also expanding production, it is a competitive market and it will never be a licence to print money," she adds.

But she acknowledges that after the financial irregularities uncovered a month ago at The Ostrich Farming Corporation, many people who have invested in ostriches with this firm have probably already lost their money.

Hopefully for those farmers who have diversified into ostrich farming with their eyes open, prospects still look interesting in spite of the inevitable bad publicity that is now occurring with some where-has-my-ostrich-gone farming schemes.

Producer Frank Ayres – still asking for farmers to rear ostrich meat.