Government support needed to set up ancillary units to produce products such as emu oil, leather

Emu farming and emu-based cuisine may be gaining popularity in the State. However, as demand for emu meat is still confined to a niche market, farmers in the State are looking forward to government support to set up ancillary units to produce products such as emu oil and emu leather.

The numbers

The number of emus in Karnataka, according to estimates by the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO), is less than two lakh while it is four lakh each in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

‘Easy entry and exit’

After the first emu farm was set up in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh in 1998, the Government of India sought to create awareness among potential farmers that it was an “easy-entry-and-exit” business.

CPDO Deputy Director Mahesh P.S. said persons interested in emu farming need not invest much. “All that the emus require is fencing, a water source and a small shelter,” he said.

However, Anand Rangrej, owner of Frenzy Emu Farm on Bellary Road, which has around 350 birds, warns people against rushing into emu farming. “The government needs to educate emu farmers about problems they could face. Ancillary industries such as to produce emu oil are not developed,” he added.

Other regular sources of income from an emu farm include the eggs, which are sold at around Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 for each fertilised egg. Besides, chicks can be sold to prospective breeders.

A large-scale emu farm can also generate emu oil, emu skin and feathers. The skin of the emu has a high breathability factor and is used to make high-quality leather. The oil, produced by refining emu fat, is used in soaps, as well as for pain relief.

‘Healthy delicacy’

The CPDO has been promoting emu meat as a healthy delicacy. “It is cholesterol-free red meat,” Dr. Mahesh said. But, demand for emu meat is yet to pick up in the State, leaving the fledgling industry struggling. In addition, farmers have to compete with those from neighbouring States who supply meat to star hotels and some restaurants.

Emu meat is available at a few outlets in K.R. Puram and Indiranagar, with 1 kg costing Rs. 350.

Emu dishes

While emu dishes are available in a few star hotels, foodies can also try out emu dishes at a mid-level family restaurant — Susee Emu Rusee Emu — that recently opened on CMH Road in Indiranagar.

The manager said the Chinese menu, which included emu pepper fry, dragon emu and a variety of soups, besides emu cooked Chettinad style were the favourites.

The restaurant also offers continental dishes such as emu burgers.

K. Thomas, a customer, said: “Everyone says most rare meat tastes like chicken; the emu dishes remind me of tender mutton.”