US OSTRICH INDUSTRY TAKES LEAP FORWARD

* The old ``supply and demand'' law is being proven again this time in the burgeoning ostrich industry in the United States.

The 2,500-member American Ostrich Association is busy promoting the ostrich as the new agricultural alternative for farmers and ranchers across the country.

Worldwide demand for ostrich feathers, hides, and even meat far exceeds the current supply. In response, the ostrich association is ramping up and estimates that a minimum of about 150,000 birds will be needed each year to supply commercial processing facilities in the US.

For ranchers, a proven breeding pair of ostrich can command a price of $40,000 to $80,000. While the prices may seem excessive compared to traditional livestock costs, the return on investment is said to be enormous. An ostrich pair can conservatively produce 20 offspring a year as opposed to one calf per cow.

The industry, however, is still several years away from supporting a slaughter market, the association says. Already popular in Europe, the meat of the ostrich is red with the taste and consistency of beef.

Though you won't find ostrich meat in your local supermarket, selected restaurants around the country are beginning to offer it on their menus, most of them located in Texas.

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