Ratites (Ostriches, Emus, Rhea, Cassowary)
Ratites ("RAT-tights") are a family of flightless birds characterized by small wings and flat breastbones. Ostriches, emus and rheas are members of this family. Ostriches are native to Africa; emus to Australia; and rheas to South America -- particularly the grasslands of Argentina.
When fully grown, ostriches, the largest birds in the world, stand about seven to eight feet tall and can weigh 300 to 400 pounds. Emus are about six feet tall and weigh 125 to 140 pounds. Adult rheas are about five feet tall and weigh 60 to 100 pounds. The birds are 95 percent usable commercially, including their meat, feathers, oil and leather.
Ostrich was the first ratite to be raised in the U.S. There are now about 1,000 ostrich growers in the U.S. raising about 100,000 birds. Emus are raised in about 43 states at a population of more than a million. Rheas are the newest U.S. farm-raised ratite with a population of more than 15,000 birds.