The ratite industry still is in its infancy. Many in traditional agriculture have not yet accepted it as “real” agriculture. However, as the breeder market subsides, prices fall, and domestic slaughter increases, many in traditional agriculture, government, and academia will begin to consider ratite production a serious agricultural industry.
Establishment of markets
The goal of the ratite industry is to produce ratites as a market animal in the near future. Marketable products such as leather, feathers, meat, and oil are considered to be the future of these birds.
A small amount of meat is being sold to some higher scale restaurants and markets, a few hides are being used in relatively expensive garments, and a small quantity of oil is being produced for niche cosmetic markets. Further establishment and growth of these markets are needed to sustain this industry.
In the early days of the industry (1986–1992), one of the biggest concerns for potential growers was price. At that time, only breeders were available, so the price remained high. Hatching eggs have sold for as much as $2,000 each, while proven breeding birds have sold for up to $80,000 per pair.
Recent downward price corrections reflect increased productivity and the need to establish slaughter and product marketing. Today, ratites raised for slaughter are valued between$500–$750 per bird.
Ratites may be poised to be another major agricultural industry. On the other hand, the industry may not last. Before ratites can become established as an agricultural commodity, significant problems must be overcome, including marketing, slaughter, and various production problems. Major industry players, grower associations, government agencies, universities, and marketing professionals must make the decisions now that will lead to future growth.