Tastes Fine, But The Head's A Bit Sandy

OSTRICH FOR THANKSGIVING? That's the hope of many American ostrich farmers, who are busily promoting the 7-foot, 300-pound bird as perfect next to the pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes. Now, ostriches are used mainly for their feathers. The American Ostrich Assn. pushes the bird's health appeal: Its cholesterol count is even lower than turkey and chicken. And no, it doesn't taste like chicken. More like beef.

Thus far, ostrich can be found in only about three dozen restaurants nationwide. Wayne Bolan, head of TOPS, a Burleson (Tex.) ostrich-meat supplier, says the demand exists, but the supply is too low. Result: Ostrich meat costs a lot, more than $20 per pound.

The U.S. ostrich population is around 150,000, compared to annual turkey production of 291 million. Yet turkey's growth in the marketplace--production has more than tripled since 1960--encourages ostrich promoters. Indeed, ostrich farming is new to these shores, beginning only about 10 years ago with the first birds imported from Africa that weren't for zoo exhibits. If ostriches do show up for Thanksgiving, says supplier Bolan, "that would be a very large drumstick."

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