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Introduction

Yankee Doodle Emu (tentative title)

Written and Directed by Alan Zansler

 

Film Summary:

 

The film will focus primarily on the people of the industry, used as a cinematic structuring device, but there will also be discussions of the products of the emu and the infrastructure in place to produce these products. While the history of the American emu industry will be discussed, it will be presented as an unfortunate hurdle that the people have overcome. The emu in the Australian aboriginal culture, popular culture, and agriculture will also be covered.

 

Industry Summary:

 

The emu is the second largest bird on earth today, second only to the ostrich. For centuries, the aborigines of Australia have used the emu much as the Native Americans used the buffalo. The European settlers to Australia did not know what to make of this new land. While most simply killed the emu and other native animals for sport or to defend their crops, a few saw that the bird could be useful. It was not until the late 1970s that the emu industry would be started in Australia, based on the good health of the aborigines that have used its many products for hundred or thousands of years.

 

The emu industry came to the United States in the late 1980s. Since no live birds or eggs could be exported from Australia, emus from zoos and private collections were imported. As the potential of the bird was publicized, more and more farmers and investors entered the market, willing to pay up to $40,000 for a pair of breeding birds. No products were being developed at this time, and the speculative market collapsed, burning many farmers who could not afford to lose that money.

 

The media picked up on this story and the unfortunate events that followed. Unable to feed their birds, some investors left their birds to starve, let them loose, or even killed them en masse. Emu farmers today would like to forget those dark times, but it is a testament to their hard work and the wonderful products of the emu that are gaining notice with the public. Those that stayed in the industry are a unique group of people that respect their animals, the Earth, and their fellow human beings.

 

While the emu is touted as a “totally usable bird,” the main two products of the emu are therapeutic oil derived from the bird’s fat and the lean red meat. The oil has been shown in many laboratory tests to be anti-inflammatory, non comedogenic (will not clog pores), and transdermal, easily carrying it and any other medicine it is mixed with deep into the skin. The beef-like meat, though poultry, is dark red, having more iron than beef. It is very low in fat, and considered a delicacy in gourmet circles. The other products of the emu include the large, emerald green eggs, the downy feather used in fashion and industry, and the supple leather. Some producers even sell the bones and toenails to artists and scientists.

 

The emu is a very unique creature, and paired with its gentle domesticated nature, it is an attractive option for small farmers or families that just want to raise a few animals on a small patch of land. The producers have adapted with the ups and downs of this industry, and are stronger for it. Their creativity and dedication may be unprecedented in an agricultural industry, and hopefully the world will come to recognize the importance of the bird they have worked so hard to promote.

 

All text copyright Alphabet Zoup Productions, 2008

 

The following people have been interviewed in making this film:

 

Neil and Lois Williams, Back Country Emu, TN

Paul Binford, LB Processors (oil refinery), TN

Dale Bourgeois, Cajun Chef, retired emu farmer, LA

Dr. Dennis Buege, meat researcher, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Joylene Reavis, Maple Sugar Emus, WS

Peter Duncan, South African Emu Ranch

Myra and Allen Charleston, Red Oak Farm, TN

Anthony Tromboli, animal curator, Kentucky Down Under

William Powell, Aboriginal instructor, Kentucky Down Under

Charles and Stephanie Ramey, H&R Farm, TN

Sheree Lewis and Sherrie Schatz, publishers of “Emu Today & Tomorrow”, OK

Tony Anderson, Emu Products and Management Inc. (EPMI), OK

Maria Minnaar, author The Emu Farmers Handbook, volumes 1 and 2

Gayle and Carl Gardner, Marsha King, Divine Dromaius, TX

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Contact me for prints of these and more antique ratite engravings.

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