Is there a more Australian way of hatching a business deal than over a barbecue?

Key points:

  • A butcher and a farmer from The Rock, in southern NSW, are working together to sell emu meat
  • Rump steak and kebabs are a popular choice with customers
  • They sold out of the meat from their trial of processing 100 birds

That was how emu farmer Ian Marston from The Rock in the NSW Riverina convinced his local butcher Tim Driscoll to get on board with selling meat from his birds.

 “I tried some emu steak at the barbecue, and I’ve loved it ever since and now eat it once a week,” The Rock Butchery’s Tim Driscoll said.

A black tray with three emu meat kebabs on skewers and a sprig of rosemary.

Emu kebabs are a popular choice with consumers who are trying the meat for the first time.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery


So what does emu meat taste like?

Mr Driscoll said it tasted a bit like a rump of beef.

“In between rump and probably duck,” he said.

“It’s very tender and good protein.”

Mr Marston agreed it was best served as a rump.

The Rock butcher Tim Driscoll

Tim  Driscoll, who owns The Rock Butchery in southern NSW, says adding emu to his range has been worthwhile.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery 


“It’s very tender, healthy, high in protein and iron, and it’s lean as I keep all the fat.

As for cooking emu meat, Mr Driscoll prefers it cooked medium rare on a barbecue with a bit of sea salt on top.

“I like the flavouring and the fact that it is good for you,” he said.

Challenging taste buds 

Ian Marston has been farming emus for 30 years and runs 750 emus on his Marrocka Emu Farm at The Rock near Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina.

To test the market’s taste for emu meat, Mr Marston and Mr Driscoll had 100 birds processed at a Victorian abattoir.

The Rock is centred in prime lamb and beef grazing country, so changing the taste buds of Mr Driscoll’s customers was a challenge.

“They tried it and they’ve come back and bought it again, so it’s slowly taken off,” he said.

It is beyond The Rock where the market has also taken flight.

“A restaurant in Albury has been selling a lot of kebabs,” Mr Driscoll said.

Emu meat in trays surrounded by schnitzel in a butchery display cabinet.

The Rock in southern NSW is prime lamb and beef country, but butcher Tim Driscoll is broadening his customers’ taste buds by offering emu meat.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery


Eating the Coat of Arms

While kangaroo meat has been widely accepted by consumers, there has been more resistance to emu meat being added to the menu.

During the 1990s, Ian Marston was involved with an abattoir at Narrandera in southern NSW from where emu meat was exported.

An image of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, depicting symbols of Australia's six states.

Australians have eaten kangaroo for some time, but there has been resistance to consuming the other animal on our coat of arms.(

Parliamentary Education Office


“We didn’t supply any domestic markets at all as there was a stigma where people in Australia didn’t want to eat emu,” Mr Marston said.

“But this time we are marketing all the young, tender and healthy meat to the Australian market.”

Emu head

While emu meat from Australia had been exported to international markets for many years, Australian consumers haven’t grown much of a taste for the meat. The Rock butcher Tim Driscoll is working to change that. (



Emu meat healthy and lean

As the fat is kept for emu oil when it is processed at the abattoir, the meat is very lean.

“We don’t have to trim anything off it and there is very little prep work, ” Mr Driscoll said.

Emu meat is a cheaper cut compared to beef and lamb.

“Emu meat doesn’t weigh as much, so you are not spending as much for steak,” Mr Driscoll said.

A piece of emu rump meat and three kebabs on skewers on trays on a butchers weigh scale.

Butcher Tim Driscoll says his favourite cut of emu is rump (pictured left) cooked medium-rare.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery


After being processed at the abattoir, the emu carcass weighs about 12 to 14 kilograms.

Mr Driscoll said after it was boned out, he was left with about eight to 10 kilograms from each bird.

A butcher for 18 years, Mr Driscoll said it was the first time he had worked with emu meat in his career.

“I had to teach myself how to break it up,” he said.

“They are a bit like a big chicken Maryland, so I just followed the bone and seams to work out what was what and went from there.”

A slab of deep red coloured emu meat sitting on blue plastic.

Tim Driscoll taught himself how to butcher emu meat and says it is similar to a chicken Maryland.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery


Meeting the market on farm

For Ian Martson, the oil from his emus was highly sought after for its immune-boosting properties, while the feathers and eggs were also in demand.

In the past, his birds were processed at 30 to 40 months of age as there was little demand for the meat.

Mr Marston now found he could have the birds processed at 18 months old when the meat was tender.

Emus grazing lucerne in a paddock.

Emus at Ian Marston’s Marrocka Emu Farm at The Rock in southern NSW.(

ABC News: Rosie King


“We have to wait until they have enough fat on them as we are aiming for around 11 kilograms of oil and about eight or nine kilos of meat,” he said.

Mr Marston said February was the ideal time to process the birds when they weighed about 50 kilograms live.

“From February onwards they start mating, getting territorial and arguing with one another in the paddock, so they start to lose weight,” he said.

Mr Martson said he had to manage their diet and supplemented the emus with grain. They also grazed on lucerne and rye-grass.

A man in a yard with his young emus.

Ian Marston with his young emus at his farm near The Rock, in the Riverina.(

ABC News: Rosie King


He also had to ensure they had enough muscle tone before they started gaining too much weight.

“They only have little legs so you don’t want them too big too quickly or they will splay their legs,” he said.

The best cuts of meat come from the birds’ rear and there is no breast meat.

“It’s the back that’s got all the fillets and the good cuts on it. The legs are like the sausage meat,” Mr Marston said.

Plans to go big with birds

While Mr Driscoll had been selling his emu meat to customers in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, he was also in talks with smallgoods makers in Western Australia and Queensland.

Brown boxes with emu meat in them sitting in a cool room.

Emu meat is sent to NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with interest also coming from smallgoods makers in WA and Queensland.(

ABC Rural: Cara Jeffery


To keep up demand to butcher Tim Driscoll, Mr Marston had called on three of his fellow emu farmers in Victoria to boost supply.

Next year, they plan to have a lot more emu meat available.

“This year was a trial, and we’ll have a lot more next year so it will be like a seasonal crop,” Mr Marston said.

“One of the Victorian farmers getting involved will have 3,000 emus next year.

“So it will be interesting to see how the market grows and how quick Tim can do extensions on the butchery.”

Would you eat emu? A southern NSW butcher thinks emu meat could be the next big bird on the menu
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