Emu farming is a rather new practice that is fast becoming an important industry in Australia, Europe and America. Emu farming is a difficult business that requires lots of knowledge and care, but can be a rewarding and lucrative enterprise if you put in the time and effort. The University of Massachusetts as well as the Emu Oil Institute have been conducting experiments since 1999 into the many benefits of emu oil.
An emu is a bird from the ratite family of birds, which consists of only five birds: emu, ostrich, rhea, kiwi and cassowary. The ratite birds are flightless birds because they do not have the musculature to support flight. When an emu is about a year old, it will be nearly 6 feet tall and weigh almost 45.4kg. Emus live to above 30 years old and are productive throughout their entire life, producing more than 20 offspring (eggs) per year.
Emu farming is an up-and-coming industry that originated in Australia but has now spread across the globe. Ranchers "farm" emus to provide many different products, such as meat, eggs, oil and leather. Emu farming "began" in the 1970s when an Aboriginal group in Australia was authorised to capture 400 wild emus to run an experiment on breeding and tanning emu skin. The industry took off in 1987 when emus from that original herd were used to start a few emu farms.
A female emu will produce one egg about every three days during the cooler months of the year. These eggs are collected daily and placed in incubator chambers for about two months so they can hatch. After they are hatched, the emu chicks are kept in special raising pens until about 3 months of age. At 14 months, the emu can be slaughtered for its meat, hide and other uses.
Handling emus can be a dangerous undertaking for someone who is not qualified or experienced enough. Mature emus that are older than 7 months can be a serious threat because of their size and extremely powerful legs. One of the best method for handling a large group of mature emus, according to the Queensland Governments Department of Employment, is to put them in a specially made dark facility. This is an enclosed structure in which it is significantly darker than it is outside. The dark space calms the birds and makes handling them far easier.
The three main products obtained from emus are leather, meat and oil. Emu leather is very soft and supple, which has a dotted pattern on it because of the raised areas surrounding each feather follicle. Emu meat has less than 0.05 per cent cholesterol, is dark red in colour, has a gamy flavour and can be used in a vast assortment of dishes, such as stir fry and fillet. Emu oil is used to treat muscular and joint pain by applying the oil directly to the skin; it is employed in research into cosmetics and skin care products.