“Like Beef Without the Fat”

We'll get to the birds in a moment (they're unique, to say the least), but what Todd Applebaum wants you to know is that “ostrich meat tastes like beef without the fat. In fact, it has less fat than skinless chicken."

Ostrich Farms
Adult ostriches.
Photo by Cathy Rosselli.

Applebaum, owner of Roaming Acres Farm in Lafayette, raises free-range ostriches, the world’s largest birds, and sells ostrich steaks, filets, ground meat and eggs (which are huge) at farmers’ markets, including Montclair’s and the Union Square Green Market in New York City.

In addition to the meat, “we utilize just about everything from the animal,” he says.

He turns the omega-rich oil in the birds into soap, and turns the bones, tendons, hearts and livers into drug- and hormone-free pet treats. The strong hides make prized leather.

As to the creatures themselves, they are said to have the biggest eyes of any land-dwelling vertebrates.In fact, Applebaum says, their eyes are bigger than their brains. Ostriches can’t fly, but they make up for that by running at speeds approaching 40 m.p.h.

They have long, powerful legs, and their two-toed feet speed them along better than any pair of Nikes.

Applebaum’s birds thrive on an all-natural vegetarian diet he whips up for them. He carefully incubates and hatches each egg to produce new "roosters" and "hens."

Tending several hundred ostriches, as well as Berkshire hogs and bison, on the farm he established in 2005, Applebaum, 42, is always on the go. “I start my day at 6 a.m. and end at 11 at night, seven days a week,” he says. “But I love what I do. Every day is a learning curve and every day is different.”

Right now he is in the midst of egg-laying season, April through September. Each season, each hen can lay 40 to 100 Jurassic-sized eggs that are about 24 times larger than the average chicken egg. After 42 days of roosting, the hatching begins, and each little ball of feathers is nurtured to maturity over the course of a full year.

When the ostriches reach 300 pounds, Applebaum sends them to USDA processing facilities (read: cruelty-free slaughterhouses) in Warren County and in Pennsylvania.

Ostrich meat tends to be more expensive per pound than beef. Ground ostrich sells for $12 a pound. But Applebaum says his “educated customers” know that, compared to beef, ostrich is low not only in fat but also in calories and cholesterol. And it is high in protein and iron.

As one of only a few ostrich growers in America, Applebaum says he can’t keep up with demand–and claims he has never had to give away free samples to drum up business.

Being so lean, the meat cooks quickly, and pairs well with most sauces and condiments. “The steaks should always be cooked medium or medium rare,” Applebaum says. “Overcooking will dry them out.”

Ostrich Filet with Salsa Verde
Adapted from Roaming Acres Farm

4 (6 or 8-ounce) ostrich steaks

Heat an iron skillet to very hot. Add a little olive oil or butter. Cook for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the steak over, cover the skillet and turn off the heat. The steak will be done in about 4-5 minutes.

Salsa Verde – A piquant green sauce.
1 cup Italian leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
6 anchovies, drained
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
3 large pimento stuffed green olives
4 green onions, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, drained
Fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all the ingredients, except oil, in a food processor and pulse until evenly chopped. With motor running, add the olive oil to emulsify the sauce. Serve with fillet.



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