Ostrich is a good bodybuilding food, although it probably won't supplant such staples as beef and chicken breast anytime soon. A recent study (J.M. Walter et al., "Ground ostrich: a comparison with ground beef," Journal of the Amen can Dietetic Association, 100121:244-5, February
2000) assessed sensory and nutritional characteristics of both ostrich and beef for palatability and acceptance of this gigantic fowl. This investigation indicates that ostrich meat is a moderately desirable alternative to beef. We haven't seen much reliable scientific data
comparing ostrich to more traditional sources of meal. This report has helped fill this void by giving the total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and iron content in both ostrich and beef, and by including sensory evaluations of the ground meats (stir- fried and stewed).
In the first part of the study, 83 participants performed two different sensory assessments. During the first session, they did not know what type of meat they were eating; during the second, they were told the type. The ostrich and beef were ground and prepared as stir-fry and as a stew for each session. Sensory evaluation included flavor, color, moistness and tenderness. For both preparations and during both research sessions, beef samples were preferred significantly over ostrich. Also, the taste-testers favored the stew over the stir-fry for both types of meat.
Interestingly, the average score for the two meats increased when the subjects knew what they were eating. This difference might mean that people were able to appreciate the ostrich flavor more when they knew what they were eating and, since they were familiar with beef, they probably also accepted it more when they were told it was beef. In the second part of this investigation, cooked beef and ostrich samples were sent to an independent laboratory. The lab measured total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and iron content. Fat plays a significant role in the flavor profile and tenderness of meat. The analysis showed that 100 grams (g) of ostrich has a lower total fat content - 8.1 g compared to 9.5 g for the same amount of beef. This lower fat level undoubtedly contributes to the "mouth-feel" of ostrich. (Another factor in mouth-feel is moisture content. in past studies, ostrich was considered drier than beef.) Ostrich meat proved to he lower in saturated fat than beef (2.84 g to 4.35 g) and higher in iron content (5.9 milligrams [mg] to 4.1 mg). The two meats weren't significantly different in total cholesterol.
Being lower in saturated fat and higher in iron makes ostrich a healthier red meat, and heart-smart consumers may be justified in including it in their diets. Americans are partial to beef, though, and ostrich meat is more expensive. One option for those who want to consume less total and saturated fat but still want the flavor of beef is to blend the two meats together. Or, since ostrich has a drier mouth-feel, use it in recipes that call for sauces, or in soups or stews.