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Emu Farmers Wait for Business to Take Off

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GOLDSBORO — For a while, emu farming was all the rage among people searching for a slower lifestyle or looking for other ways to use their extra land. But the desire to eat the meat of these large, flightless birds has not hatched in North Carolina. Emu farmers are now left with more feathered friends than they can handle.

About five years ago at the height of the emu craze, they cost as much as $50,000 a pair; now, emu farmers can't give the birds away

"What we're gonna do is have some slaughtered and start eating them ourselves to try to cut our feed bill back some," says a rueful Terry Sasser, a Wayne County emu farmer.

At one time there were close to 600 emu farmers in North Carolina. That number has declined significantly.

Part of the problem is getting the emu meat on store shelves. The inspections are costly, part of the reason the 98 percent fat-free steaks go for $9 a pound. Then there's the marketing.

The emu producers have, understandably, a very small marketing organization and therefore very limited funds in North Carolina. The group is doing all that it can to reach people in the state, to convince them to give emu meat and emu products a try.

Emu farmers believe they may eventually land on their feet by selling a North Carolina line of emu oil products.

It's used in shampoos and conditioners and lotions, sunburn gels and lip balm.

There could also be an uptick in demand for emu meat.

One Raleigh doctor just began recommending it to his heart patients.

Emu farmers also hope to market emu eggs. The eggs are six inches long and weigh more than a pound.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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