Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

South Africa Wants to Sell the World on Ostrich Steaks

South Africa is home to more than 80 percent of the world's ostriches, the largest living bird species, and produces more than 65 percent of ostrich products, according to the South African Ostrich Business Chamber, an industry group. The industry, which dates back to 1864, is worth more than 1 billion rand ($70 million), with about 13,000 people employed in farms, slaughterhouses, tanneries and feather-processing plants.

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    Sean Gordon from Southampton, U.K., came to the arid southern town of Oudtshoorn, South Africa, to ride an ostrich. Ostrich riding is a popular tourist attraction. However, the activity is increasingly under siege and fewer farms have been organizing these events. 

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    An ostrich chick, only a few days old, warms itself under a heat lamp. About three-quarters of South Africa's ostriches are farmed in the Western Cape province, with Oudtshoorn the epicenter of the industry.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Ostrich eggs are the largest of any living bird. Many farms today have incubators for the mass production of eggs. Eggshells are sometimes used for decorative and artistic purposes. 

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    A "feather man" examines ostrich feathers for irregularities. The flightless birds were initially produced for their plumage, which was popular among European nobility in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Feathers were outranked by only gold, diamonds and wool among South African exports before World War I. Today meat and leather are the biggest-selling ostrich products.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    A newly married couple from Dubai take a selfie while balancing on a nest of ostrich eggs. The eggs are very strong and can hold a large amount of weight. Ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn have become such a popular tourist attraction that it is one of the most common reasons for visiting the city.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Because they lack teeth, ostriches regularly swallow pebbles in order to grind food in their stomachs. There are about 440 registered farmers in South Africa.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Workers load the animals into a truck for transport to a slaughterhouse. Meat accounts for just over half the value of ostrich products sold.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    To avoid being trampled by other ostriches during transport, some are loaded into special compartments under the truck.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    The industry took a hammering following an outbreak of the H5N2 substrain of bird flu in 2011, which resulted in about 50,000 birds being culled and the European Union banning imports for four years. South Africa was slaughtering 230,000 ostriches annually for their meat prior to the embargo, and its imposition saw the number tumble to 120,000. The EU ban was lifted in August last year, and the number of birds slaughtered in 2015 reached 181,000.

    Photographer: Ruvan Boshoff/iStockphoto via Getty Images

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    Lamps with shades made of an ostrich egg are frequently for sale in and around Oudtshoorn. 

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Three ostriches are prepared for a race to be staged for a group of tourists who have just arrived on a farm.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Coasters made from separate pieces of eggshell sit for sale in a souvenir shop. Increased demand for the bird's leather since 2011 has helped offset demand for meat.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Farmer Lawrence Lana has a microfarm with only 12 ostriches. He and his family can survive on the income of ostrich farming, but cannot compete with the megafarms in Oudtshoorn with thousands of birds. 

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    Eggs are decorated with the aim of selling them as souvenirs. The eggs are printed by means of transfer sheets. Previously, locals still painted them by hand. 

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux

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    About three-quarters of South Africa's ostriches are farmed in the Western Cape province. Smaller competitors to the South African industry include China, Zimbabwe and Australia.

    Photographer: Frank Trimbos/Redux