Emu Meat: A Healthy Food Choice

emu meat, emu oil, healthy red meat alternatives

  • Although it resembles a bird, the emu is from the ratite family and is a cousin of the ostrich. The red meat of the emu has been consumed in Australia for thousands of years.
  • American emus are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Today’s consumers are seeking healthier diets, but they don’t want to sacrifice taste. Because it is low in fat and high in nutritional value, emu meat helps to meet the needs for this growing market.
  • Emu meat is an excellent alternative for health-conscious consumers who love the taste of beef. The red emu meat is similar in taste and texture to lean beef, but lower in cholesterol, fat, and calories.
  • The tenderness and texture of emu meat enables it to be prepared in a variety of ways. It is best prepared lightly grilled or pan fried.
  • The American Heart Association recognizes emu meat as a healthy alternative to beef.
  • Emu meat is higher in iron, protein and Vitamin C than beef and has the equivalent fat and cholesterol of poultry.
  • Emu meat is extremely low-fat, containing only 3 grams per 3.5 ounce serving. The fat is 43 percent monounsaturated, which lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Nutritional Comparison of Meats

Serving Size: 100 grams (3.5 oz.)
Emu Beef Chicken Turkey Pork Duck Buffalo Lamb Ostrich
Oyster Fillet Ground Lean Ground White Meat White Meat Ground White Pekin Game Meat Ground Cut Composite
Protein (g) 22 23.1 16.9 26.8 26.9
Calories (kcal) 120 130 264 110 104 263 140 131 282 140
Sodium (mg) 40 65 40 56 Iron (mg) 4.5 3.4 1.77 0.7 1.4 0.88 4.5 2.12 1.55 3.2
Cholesterol (mg) 45 64 72 61 83
Total Fat (g) 3 4 20.7 1.2 1.6 21.2 2.5 1.8 23.4 2.8
Saturated Fat (g) 1 0.3 7.87 0.6 0

Emu Meat: The Athlete’s Choice

Although exercise training is a fundamental component of an athlete’s training regimen, strict attention to the diet is arguably just as important in order to perform at full potential. The three macronutrients that provide most of the calories (energy) in the diet are carbohydrates, fats and protein. The optimal diet for most people contains about 60% of calories from complex carbohydrates, 25% from fat and 15% from protein. Assuming a 2,000 calorie a day diet, this translates to 300 grams of carbohydrate, 56 grams of fat and 75 grams of protein.

However, the nutritional requirements of “most people” are not the same as for athletes. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for nutrients, vitamins and minerals was established almost 70 years ago with the sedentary person in mind. Therefore, the RDA for protein intake may be insufficient for active individuals and athletes. Numerous studies have since determined that athletes need much more protein each day than recommended by the RDA standards 1-3. Although protein is a very small source of energy during rest or light activity, protein contributes a significant amount of energy during prolonged exercise. This additional protein is required to maintain lean tissue mass and too more quickly repair the muscle damage that occurs during intense exercise 4.

In contrast to the RDA guidelines of 0.8 grams of protein consumed per kilogram of body weight, protein intake of 1.0-2.0 grams per kilogram body weight per day is now recommended in strength and endurance athletes alike 1, 4. Competitive athletes who are engaged in daily heavy training, and regular competition, need even more protein; up to 1-8-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram per day. Using the 2,000 calorie a day diet with 75 grams of protein a day for comparison, a 200 pound competitive athlete may require 3,500 calories per day, and up to 180 grams of protein each day. Not to mention larger quantities of the fat soluble Vitamins A, D, and K.

However, 180 grams of protein each day is difficult to consume for most people, without a consistent healthy source of protein in the diet. Animal products such as beef are rich sources of protein; however, over 50% of the calories in beef are derived from fat. Obviously, athletes require leaner, healthier food choices in order to obtain the additional protein needed to support a training regimen.

Emu meat has been enjoying wide popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. First, a little about the emu. An emu is a large flightless bird native to Australia. It stands up to 6 feet tall and can weigh over 100 pounds. In fact, the emu is the second tallest bird in the world, behind the ostrich. Many aspects of the emu are unique including their meat; the oil derived from their fat; and their eggshells. Even though emus are birds, raw emu meat has a dark red color and looks similar to beef when cooked. Emu oil is rich in skin nourishing fatty acids including oleic, linoleic, and linolenic to name a few. Emu oil has found a niche within the health and beauty care industry due to its benefit to the skin and to its anti-inflammatory properties. Emu eggshells are prized for their beautiful dark green color, unusual shell texture, and their jumbo size of about 5-7″ long & 10-14″ around. For more information about Emu Oil and Emu Egg Shells visit www.UniquelyEmu.com.

Emu meat is a rich source of protein and typically has a better nutritional profile than other lean meats 5. For example, one 3-ounce serving of emu meat provides 23 grams of protein and only 110 calories, half the calories found in a similar size serving of beef. Furthermore, the total fat and saturated fat content of emu is only 1/10 of that contained in beef. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends consumption of emu meat because it is “very low in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium” 6. Based on data from the USDA and the University of Wisconsin, compared to other meats, Emu meat has:

  • Fewer calories
  • More protein
  • Much less fat than any meat; 1/4 the fat of beef and 1/2 the fat of elk and venison
  • Less saturated fat
  • Low cholesterol levels
  • More iron
  • Less sodium
  • More potassium
  • More of the Vitamins A, D, & E

Based on the nutritional profile of emu meat, it is ounce-for-ounce the best meat source for athletes. Emu meat is low in calories and fat, which helps the athlete maintain a healthy body weight. The high protein content of emu meat helps the athlete maintain lean body mass during heavy training and helps recovery and strengthens immunity between training sessions. One notable benefit of emu meat is that the iron content is about twice as high as in other meats. One serving of emu meat provides about 25% of the iron needed each day. This is a notable distinction since about 30% of men and 80% of women athletes have an iron deficiency. Since iron is needed to make hemoglobin which is found in red blood cells and which aids in oxygen transportation throughout the body. Iron-deficiency anemia can cause numerous problems for the athlete including fatigue, shortness of breath, impaired performance, appetite loss and lowered immunity. By regularly eating emu meat, in combination with a broad variety of foods naturally rich in whole food vitamins such as dairy, whole grains, phytonutrients rich fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, daily iron needs will be easily met even during the heaviest training and competition periods.

In summary, emu meat has a number of health benefits for the sedentary adult and offers performance benefits to the athlete. The nutritional profile of emu meat is superior to that of other meats in many important categories and should be considered the athlete’s choice when selecting a nutritious, complete protein source.

Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND


    Campbell B, Kre >Reprinted with permission

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