ATHENS, Ohio -- Americans searching for a healthier alternative to beef may need to adjust their taste buds a bit before trying the low-fat meat of emu, a flightless bird native to Australia.
Emu is a healthy alternative to other red meats, dietitians say, but a survey of consumers by an Ohio University researcher suggests that Americans prefer beef over the unfamiliar taste of emu.
In the study, researchers asked participants to sample cooked patties of turkey, beef and emu and rate the meats for tenderness, flavor, texture, aftertaste and overall acceptance. The study, which was published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, was supported by a grant from the WorldWide Meat Co., a San Antonio-based company that sells emu and ostrich.
Participants rated beef and turkey higher than emu for tenderness, texture and overall acceptability. Beef was rated the highest for flavor, with turkey and emu rated equally for flavor, although some participants said emu had a "gamey" taste.
"The biggest complaint you get with emu is its gamey flavor," said David Holben, assistant professor of human and consumer sciences at Ohio University and lead author of the study.
Beef was rated higher in flavor than all the meats, Holben said, probably because of the familiar flavor of beef and its fat content. A 4-ounce serving of emu has 1 gram of fat, and a 4-ounce serving of beef has 8 grams of fat.
The second-largest bird in the world after the ostrich, the emu belongs to the ratite family of flightless birds. Raw emu has a dark cherry color and resembles beef when cooked. Retail cuts of emu include steak, fillet, medallion, roast and ground. Farmers in Alabama, Texas and Ohio are raising emu, selling it for $5 to $6 a pound, Holben said. Emu is available from farms in regions where it is raised and also can be purchased on the Internet.