Profile of the Canadian Ostrich, Emu and Rhea Industries

By Agri Canada - This report looks at the profile of the Ratite industry in Canada, covering Ostriches, Emu and Rhea.
calendar icon 1 January 2003
clock icon 4 minute read
Profile of the Canadian Ostrich, Emu and Rhea Industries - By Agri Canada - This report looks at the profile of the Ratite industry in Canada, covering Ostriches, Emu and Rhea.

1. Introduction

Ostrich, emu and rhea, in common with all birds, belong to the class Aves. These are, however, flightless or 'running birds' with a flat breast bone (sternum) but no keel. The group, which belongs to various orders and families, includes ostrich, native to Africa (genus - Struthio); emu, native to Australia (genus - Dromaius); rhea, native to South America (genus - Rhea); kiwi, native to New Zealand (genus - Apteryx); cassowary native to Australia and New Guinea (genus - Casuarius) and the extinct moa native to Australia and New Zealand. It is only the first three of these - ostrich, emu and rhea -which are raised commercially in a number of countries. The generic name for these birds is 'ratite', however, there is a ground swell among producers to avoid the label 'ratite' as they believe that, particularly when it is used to describe meat, it has a poor connotation. Wherever possible this term has been avoided.

2. Background

Ostriches have been grown commercially in South Africa since the 19th century. At this time, they were raised principally for their feathers which were much prized in the fashion industry. As fashions changed around 1914, the industry collapsed and only started up again in the 1970s with hides as the major product. In South Africa, ostrich hides are still the major product.

Domestic production of ostrich in countries other than South Africa started in the 1970s, together with emu and to a lesser extent rhea. It was quickly realized that the birds are extremely hardy, will flourish in a variety of climates and do not require large tracts of land. Production spread quickly, and today emu and ostrich are raised in many countries including the USA, Australia, Israel, France, New Zealand, China, Korea, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Poland and Canada. Most producers today (with the exception of those in South Africa) are growing ostrich, emu and rhea for their meat, with the hides, feathers, fat, egg shells, and other parts of the birds as by-products.

Growth in any new industry starts with building breeding stock. Because it is a new industry there is a shortage of birds and high prices can be demanded for good stock. At this stage, millions of dollars can be made, and have been made, by buying and selling breeding stock in the form of hatching eggs, chicks, yearlings and proven breeders. As more and more people get into production, breeding supplies become plentiful and prices drop. In order to embark on commercial production, bird numbers have to be increased to a level where there are sufficient birds so that some can be taken out of breeding and slaughtered for meat. Once this level has been reached, it has to be maintained so that consistent supplies of meat can be generated.

Many countries in the world are moving simultaneously towards this point, but before a consumer demand for the meat and other products has been created.





  • 3.1 Population
  • 3.2 Slaughter
  • 3.3 Trade
  • 3.3.1 Trade Regulations
  • 3.4 Value of Industry
The Canadian Industry Today
  • 4.1 Government Participation
  • 5.1 Breeding Stock
  • 5.2 Meat
  • 5.3 Hides
  • 5.4 Oil
  • 5.5 Feathers
  • 5.6 Other Products

Index of Tables and Appendices

To view the complete report, please click here

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.