Healthiest, Most Delicious Red Meat - American Ostrich Farms

Healthiest, Most Delicious Red Meat - American Ostrich Farms

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Located on a 120-acre farm outside of Boise, Idaho, American Ostrich Farms (AOF) provides an unexpected source of protein to American consumers. True red meat, ostrich is both high in protein and iron and low in fat and cholesterol. Compared to conventionally raised beef, ostrich production uses one-third of the freshwater, one-fiftieth of the land, and produces less than one-tenth the greenhouse gasses per pound of meat. There’s also reduced waste because virtually every part of the animal can be used to create products that consumers love.

Our customers have diverse interests and are drawn to our products for a variety of reasons. Prized for its tenderness and rich yet delicate flavor, we supply our meats to some of the nation's finest dining establishments, most prominent private chefs, and many adventurous home cooks. Recommended by both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association and suitable for those with red meat allergies and intolerances such as those caused by tick-borne Alpha-Gal syndrome, many Americans looking to maintain or improve their health choose ostrich. Consumers committed to minimizing their environmental footprint also support our business, recognizing that ostrich meat is a responsible choice that also happens to taste amazing.

Tell us about yourself

In 2012, I was living in South Africa and first had ostrich when I was training for a full-length Ironman Triathlon. Although I was on a strict training diet, I was craving red meat and ate a huge ostrich steak on a “cheat day.” I expected the inevitable food coma, but after digesting for only an hour, I went for a 16-mile run that was among the fastest I’ve ever had during my months of training. Because I realized ostrich was an option that could satisfy red meat cravings and allow us to eat healthfully at the same time, I was determined to bring it into the mainstream back in the U.S. I left my career in finance, moved back to my home state of Idaho (where the climate is coincidentally favorable for raising ostriches), and purchased a 120-acre property on the Snake River Plain that has since become the largest operation of its kind in North America.

The past few years have really been a wake-up call for many consumers. With the impact of disrupted supply chains, widespread drought, and extreme weather events, more consumers are concerned about sustainability – both in our food system and for our environment overall. In response, a growing number of plant-based substitutes have found their way onto grocery store shelves, and a lot of investment is being made in lab-cultivated meat. We’re offering a different solution: a healthy, scalable, and sustainable alternative that works within the nation's (and world’s) resource limitations while allowing consumers to enjoy red meat that is actually…meat.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

American Ostrich Farms has provided the U.S. market with a new alternative protein and built a fully vertically integrated value chain in less than 10 years, something quite rare in agriculture. Some may recall an ‘ostrich boom’ that began to heat up in the late 1980s and 90s. Unfortunately, there was no domestic value chain in place at that time. The difficulty of connecting products with a sustainable consumer market due in part to logistical challenges, as well as a dearth of consumer education, along with the absence of operational frameworks that would allow farmers to scale production, ultimately led to the industry’s demise by the early 2000s.

Following much research and a lot of trial and error, we have established ourselves as the industry leader, developing many agricultural innovations – from feed formulas to breeding programs to ranch infrastructure and the virtues of complete vertical integration – that have allowed our business to achieve what so many others failed to before us: an economically viable, scalable, and sustainable ostrich farming operation that doesn’t compromise on product quality or humane husbandry practices.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

When you have a particular vision of what you want to achieve, one of the biggest challenges is cultivating patience. There's a tendency to want to go after every great opportunity and to scale as quickly as possible. While growth is something every business strives for, sustainable growth requires slowing down enough to really examine the best path forward and making time to reflect along the way in order to always evaluate and improve judgment and decision-making.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. It’s important to plan not only for market trends now but trends that will be relevant in the years to come. When I was first introduced to ostrich meat, environmental concerns weren’t as prominent as they are today - and those concerns are still minimal today compared to where they will be when my three little girls are my age - but I was confident this theme would become a more pressing consideration in the years ahead, and we’ve built a business for the future.
  2. Recognize that just because things are done a certain way in your industry, it's certainly not the only way and, most likely, not the best way. Keep looking for potential for innovation and ingenuity, and don’t settle until you know you’re doing something sufficiently distinguishing or ‘different.’
  3. When it comes to longevity, I think it's important to surround yourself and your business with a diverse community of people and partners. Purposefully exposing yourself to a wide variety of perspectives and different systems of belief contributes to a more honest and holistic view of your business that, more often than not, reveals opportunities you might otherwise overlook.

 

This article was originally published by Go Solo


Also in Press

Wait, There's an Ostrich Farm in Kuna?
Wait, There's an Ostrich Farm in Kuna?

City Cast Boise is a daily news podcast where curiosity and passion for Boise meet. Host Emma Arnold, local comedian and podcaster, recently spoke with AOF founder, Alex McCoy. Follow along with their conversation on the City Cast website, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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You Know the Place Visits AOF
You Know the Place Visits AOF

Produced in association with NPR and Boise State Public Radio, You Know the Place explores the Idaho stores, shops, clubs, and pubs you always pass by, but never seem to visit. Hosts LD and Joel spent an afternoon at American Ostrich Farms, getting answers to their most burning questions. Listen to the full episode online at the You Know the Place website or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Idaho Press
Kuna's American Ostrich Farms brings lesser-known protein to the table

Alex McCoy needed a cheat day, writes Idaho Press reporter Erin Banks Rusby. During his training for the Ironman Triathlon, McCoy had avoided red meat and alcohol. But when cheat day cravings rolled in, he found himself with the opportunity to eat ostrich meat, a red meat with consistency similar to grass-fed beef.

View full article →