It may seem odd to hear of a red meat being touted as a health food, but the emu industry is doing exactly that, and with good cause.

The Emu is the largest bird native to Australia. It is the second-largest bird in the world by height, after its relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of Emus in Australia. The Emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest, and arid areas.

The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. They have long thin necks and legs. Emus can travel great distances at a fast, economical trot and, if necessary, can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph) for some distance at a time.

Emus are large birds. The largest can reach up to 150 to 190 centimetres (59–75 in) in height, 1 to 1.3 metres (3.3 – 4.3 ft) at the shoulder. Emus weigh between 18 and 55 kilograms (40 and 121 lb). Females are usually larger than males by a small amount, but are substantially wider across the rump.

Emus use their strongly clawed feet as a defence mechanism. Their legs are among the strongest of any animals, allowing them to rip metal wire fences. They are endowed with good eyesight and hearing, which allows them to detect predators in the vicinity. The plumage varies regionally, matching the surrounding environment and improving its camouflage. The feather structure prevents heat from flowing into the skin, permitting Emus to be active during the midday heat.

The female Emu lays one of an average of 11 (and as many as 20) very large, thick-shelled, dark-green eggs. The shell is around 1 mm thick although indigenous Australians say that northern eggs are thinner. The number of eggs varies with rainfall. The eggs are on average 134 by 89 millimetres (5.3 × 3.5 in) and weigh between 700 and 900 grams (1.5 and 2.0 lb), which is roughly equivalent to 10–12 chicken eggs in volume and weight. The egg surface is granulated and pale green. During the incubation period, the egg turns dark green, although if the egg never hatches, it will turn white from the bleaching effect of the sun.

Farmers in India have taken to emu-farming to avail of multiple returns offered by the birds for their meat, oil, skin, feathers besides medicinal value.

Many consumers have been instructed to give up red meat because of cholesterol, but since emu is low in saturated fats, as well as being packed with the vitamins and minerals needed by those with immune deficiencies, it is an excellent health choice," said Charles Ramey, AEA president. Recognized as Heart Healthy by the American Heart Association, emu ranked best in 15 out of 20 essential nutrients in a USDA funded study at the University of Wisconsin.

Because it is very lean, there will be little to no shrinkage during cooking. A moist heat and shorter cooking time is recommended.

Emu Burgers

1 ½ lb. ground emu

½ c. non-fat dried milk

2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. liquid smoke, optional

Combine all ingredients with the ground emu and mix well. Shape into patties and grill. Serves 6.

Deviled Emu Burgers

2 lb. Ground Emu

¾ cup. Italian Salad Dressing

3 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard

½ cup finely chopped green onions

½ cup. emu egg or 2 chicken eggs

1 cup. plain dry bread crumbs

In a small bowl, combine the dressing and mustard. In a large bowl, combine the ground emu, onions, eggs, breadcrumbs and ½ cup of the dressing/mustard mixture. Shape the meat into 8 patties. Grill or broil burgers, turning once and brushing occasionally with reserved dressing mixture, until desired doneness is reached.

Serves 8.

Heart Healthy Meat Loaf

2 pounds ground emu
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 chicken egg
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced bell pepper
Mix all ingredients by hand in large bowl. You should have a very moist mixture. Pour into casserole and bake covered at 350° for 45 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serves 6.

Emu Scaloppini with Mushroom Sauce

1 pound emu steaks (1/4 inch thick)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 stick of margarine
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
Lightly pound the steaks until 1/8" thick. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. In a 12" skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of margarine over moderate heat. (Add more margarine as needed) Sear emu steaks on both sides and transfer to a platter, cover with foil and keep warm. Add remaining ingredients (except for parsley) to skillet. Bring to a boil and boil uncovered; stirring frequently, until slightly thickened and vegetables are tender. Pour over emu steaks. Serves 4.

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