The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), a ratite, is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of emus in Australia.
The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in height. They have long thin necks and legs. Emus can travel great distances at a fast, economical trot and, if necessary, can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph). Their long legs allow them to take strides of up to 275 centimetres (9.02 ft) They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without food. Emus ingest stones, glass shards and bits of metal to grind food in the digestive system. They drink infrequently, but take in copious fluids when the opportunity arises. Emus will sit in water and are also able to swim. They are curious birds who are known to follow and watch other animals and humans. Emus do not sleep continuously at night but in several short stints sitting down.
Emu as a food source
Emus are farmed primarily for their meat, leather, and oil. Emu meat is a low-fat meat (less than 1.5% fat), and with cholesterol at 85 mg/100 g, it is comparable to other lean meats. Most of the usable portions (the best cuts come from the thigh and the larger muscles of the drum or lower leg) are, like other poultry, dark meat; emu meat is considered for cooking purposes by the USDA to be a red meat because its red colour and pH value approximate that of beef, but for inspection purposes it is considered poultry. Emu fat is rendered to produce oil for cosmetics, dietary supplements, and therapeutic products. The oil is harvested from the subcutaneous and retroperitoneal fat from the macerated adipose tissue, and filtering the liquefied fat to get the oil, and has been used by indigenous Australians and the early white settlers for purported healing benefits.
The eggs can be sold for food and decoration.