China's taste for ostriches is growing
December 26, 1997
Chinese ostrich farmers hope to someday find ostrich meat on every dinner table
Web posted at: 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT)
BEIJING (CNN) -- Two years ago, there were no ostriches in
Then eight of the birds were imported. Now there are 80,000
ostriches and 400 ostrich farms spread throughout China. And
ostrich farmers hope their industry will continue to thrive.
So what are the Chinese getting from their ostrich industry?
Feathers for pillows and winter coats. Leather that can be
transformed into handbags, and other items. And meat.
"Ostrich meat is high in protein, calcium and iron," said
Fang Wei, of the Golden Ostrich Gourmet Food City -- perhaps
the only Chinese restaurant serving ostrich meat. "It's low
in fat, cholesterol and calories. It fits the needs of a
But customers are not flocking to Fang's restaurant. The
price of ostrich meals may be one reason. While the average
Chinese dish costs about $3, the ostrich meals are about $6.
Ostrich farmers hope their product will become a favorite in
Ostriches have adapted easily to China
And China's Ostrich Breeding Association expects that will
happen as more and more farmers grow to appreciate the
advantages of raising the big birds instead of chickens, pigs
Ostriches, breeders say, adapt easily to China. They are
easy to raise, can live in almost any climate and do not eat
"In China, especially in the poor parts of the northwest,
there are areas where you can't grow grain, vegetables or
even melons," said Song Hong of the China Ostrich Breeding
Association. "But grass is no problem."
The association hopes the Chinese who live in poor
agricultural conditions can benefit economically by raising
ostriches. No only are they easier to feed than traditional
farm animals, but ostriches are more prolific.
"A cow will bear one calf a year," explained Zhao Chunli of
the Shoujia Ostrich Breeding Center. "But not an ostrich.
At an absolute minimum, an ostrich will give birth to at
least 10 ostriches per year. In five to 10 years, it'll be
laying 50 eggs a year."
The birds mature faster too.
By the time an ostrich is a year old, it already weighs about
200 pounds. By two years, a fully grown ostrich weighs 240
Beijing Bureau Chief Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.