In response to a comment made on another thread, following is an article I wrote several years ago that pretty much expresses my own feelings about ostrich meat. Dissenting opinions are, of course, invited.
Ostrich Meat - The Limits of Optimism
I have written on several occasions about ostrich meat. To tell the simple truth, although I find the ostrich a bird full of charm, its meat has never succeeded in wooing me. Despite that, when I recently received an invitation to attend a broad tasting of ostrich-based dishes that were to be prepared by talented chef Idan Halperin, my curiosity and my optimism were aroused. Among the dishes I sampled were ostrich carpaccio, ostrich that had been prepared in the oven, ostrich liver, ostrich meatballs, ostrich fillet in demi-glace sauce, ostrich goulash, and even ostrich Strogonov.
To the credit of the chef, the sauces prepared were exquisite, the side dishes were as tasty as I could have wanted, the wine served was extremely pleasant, and the two double espressos with which I concluded my tastings were excellent. Despite the efforts of the chef, however, this was a tasting that took me to the limits of my optimism and I am more convinced than ever that the very best place for ostrich meat is in the bowls of pet cats and dogs.
For those not in the know, ostrich meat is produced primarily in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and Brazil. There are even a few ostrich ranches in Texas and Japan. A bit of research reveals that most farmers started raising these birds for the valuable leather that can be made from their skins as well as for their feathers which are used in many ornamental ways. Somewhere along the way, came the realization that there was a profit to be made from the thirty or so kilos of meat underneath that skin.
The simple truth is that the meat of the ostrich has always been considered edible. Until now, however, few have claimed that ostrich meat was tasty, and to the best of my knowledge, no one ever considered a delicacy. In fact, the only time ostrich meat attained a high level of popularity was during the most decadent days of the Roman Empire. In the third century, for example, Emperor Elagabalus is said to have served 600 ostrich brains at a single meal (despite its charms, the ostrich has a rather small brain). According to a recipe by Roman cookbook author Apicius, the best way to cook this "ugly and unappetizing bird" was to boil it in stock that was heavily flavored with pepper, mint, cumin, leeks, celery seed, thyme, mustard, dates, honey, vinegar, raisin wine and oil. Modern chefs shudder when they think of this combination.
Personally, after many tastings during the ten years during which this meat has begun to appear
on European, American and Middle-Eastern menus, I find it quite easy to understand why some North African Bedouins and Australian Aborigines refuse to eat the ostrich but use its fat to rub on their bodies in order to treat rheumatism and other ailments. My problems with the meat are several. First of all, in the raw state its bright red color does little to trigger my appetite. Far more serious is that regardless of whether we are talking about the most expensive or cheapest cuts, the meat is too sinewy and lacks flavor. Without sauce the meat has a taste that falls somewhere between that of boiled turkey and beef that has been left in the open air for just a while too long. To add to my problems, the meat has the nasty habit of sticking between the teeth and to the roof of the mouth.
The liver of the ostrich gives me a special set of problems partly because it has a texture that is too grainy, a consistency that is a bit mushy, and an aroma that I find a bit too strong. Comparing this product to goose liver, which the producers would like us to do, takes a great deal of imagination and a certain level of culinary illiteracy.
Despite my objections, ostrich meat now has more than 2,200 entries on the Internet; it is being served to members of the United States Army; and, largely because of the fright over Mad Cow Disease has attained an increasing level of acceptance in France, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium and is being touted by its producers as the prestigious "meat of the 21st century". There is a lot of ostrich meat about these days and it is clear that someone is trying to sell it to us.
It is true that much of the ostrich meat making its way to the international market is processed in modern and sanitary conditions. It is equally true that the meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than beef, pork, chicken or turkey. I even acknowledge that the meat is high in protein and iron. Unfortunately, those reasons are not nearly enough to tempt me to eat this stuff. In fact, so much do I dislike this meat that I have promised myself that this would be the last time in this lifetime that I either taste or write about it.