The emu is a prehistoric bird thought to have roamed the outback of Australia some 80 million years ago. Much like the Native American's relationship with the bison, the Aborigines looked upon the emu as the core of their existence. The emu provided them with food, clothing, shelter, and spiritual sustenance. Today, this bird of the past is playing a large role in the future of American agriculture.
Emus are raised in the United States and have adapted to all climactic conditions from the frigid winters of North Dakota to the humid heat of Florida. They grow to be 6 feet tall and may weigh up to 130 pounds when mature. Emus normally breed in pairs; however some farmers are experimenting with colony breeding, as well as some trios. The hen can be productive for as long as 20 years, laying between 20 to 50 eggs a season. The laying season in our area ranges from October to March. The eggs are usually dark green in color, and about 5 inches long and weighs from 350 grams for first year layers to 700 grams for seasoned hens. Most farmers artificially incubate eggs at 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of about 20 - 25%. Average incubation ranges from 50 - 52 days. Chicks are very hardy and by the age of 3 months, are usually able to tolerate most weather conditions with available heat on colder nights.
Emus are totally usable, yielding the following products:
- A red meat, similar in taste and appearance to very lean beef, that is lower in cholesterol but higher in protein than most cuts of beef. About 25 - 35 pounds of meat can be obtained from a mature bird.
- A unique, penetrating oil. Five to six liters of oil can be obtained from a single bird. Emu oil has attracted the interest of several national and international cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. Research is continuing in laboratories nationwide as more uses are identified for this versatile raw product.
Approximately eight square feet of hide may be obtained from the adult bird. The tanned body leather is supple and durable, while the reptilian appearance of the leg leather provides interesting contrasts when used as fashion accents. The leather is currently being used in garments, boots, wallets. key chains, and accessory items.
- Emus eggs, feathers and toenails are being used in many decorative applications. Artists carve the eggs, make music boxes and create treasures to be handed down. Feathers have been used to wipe new cars prior to painting, to create unique fashion designs, and the toenails may be polished to resemble black onyx and used in jewelry items.
American Emu Association's Web Site