XXL Easter eggs pile up as German ostriches embrace early spring (dpa German Press Agency)

Giant Easter eggs are easier to find than you might think: Farmed ostriches are now busy laying eggs that feed entire families. But since they weigh in at 1.5 kilos and more, expect some hefty delivery costs.
Luebz, northern Germany (dpa) – You can’t miss them. White, classically shaped and very large. From afar, ostrich farmer Frank Loehr spots a prize specimen nestled in the grassy paddock and cautiously approaches – the hen that laid the egg is much taller, stronger and faster than he is.
The season got going early this year due to the mild winter. “The hens were confused and started laying in early March,” says Loehr, who with his wife Monika runs the Riedefelde farm in Luebz in Germany’s northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Always keeping a close eye on the courting roosters and the flapping wings of the hens, he retrieves the kilo-heavy “Easter egg” before swiftly exiting.
“Gathering the eggs can be dangerous, it’s quite an adventure,” Loehr says, recalling occasions when the only escape from an aggressive bird was to scale the enclosure’s head-high fence.
There are currently 130 birds roaming the farm, which was set up in a former gravel pit and covers 18 hectares of undulating grassland.
Standing up to 2.8 metres tall, the African ratites, or large flightless birds, are being increasingly bred for their deep red meat, which is considered a delicacy and is low in fat and cholesterol.
Since the outbreak of bird flu in South Africa and an EU ban imposed in 2011 on imports of RSA ostrich meat, there’s been no stopping the creature’s European rise in popularity, says Ralph Schumacher, president of the Association of German Ostrich Breeders (yes, there really is such a thing).
Prices for meat, leather and eggs have grown significantly, and with them the association, which now numbers around 200 separate holdings, even though the free-range poultry is still a niche product. Each year, only about 2,000 ostriches are slaughtered and exclusively marketed nationwide.
Unsurprisingly, the practice does not sit well with animal rights groups, which condemn farming of ostriches much as they do for other species. They additionally protest the growing use of ostrich feathers in fashion.
“There’s no kind way to rip feathers from any animal,” says the US animal rights organization Peta. “Most birds have them painfully ripped off or cut out while they are still alive.”
The objections haven’t slowed the farmers in Luebz, where the goal is to establish the entire production process, from egg laying to hatching and breeding of the birds to final processing. All that’s missing is official authorization for the newly built slaughterhouse, says Loehr, who founded the farm 11 years ago.
Then there will be flexibility in supplying ostrich steaks, filet and goulash to order, with around 50 birds being slaughtered a year.
Most of the farm’s 130 large birds are 1 or 2-year-old broilers specifically bred for their meat, while 14 are valuable breeding hens and five are adult roosters.
As soon as the season starts, the egg-laying runs like clockwork, says Loehr, who is actually a dairy-farm milking expert but prefers his feathered sprinters with their 50-70 kilometre-per-hour bursts to ambling bovines.
Each adult hen will produce 40 to 50 eggs if the breeder regularly removes them to prevent natural hatching. The most sought-after are fresh, unfertilized spring eggs that come from the meadows before Easter.
These are quickly sold out here and at other ostrich farms that charge as much as 28 euros (30.45 dollars) per XXL egg weighing up to 1.8 kilograms. Then there are delivery costs of around 7 euros for one egg, falling to 14 euros for 8-10 units.
A 1.5-kilo ostrich egg equals two dozen chicken eggs in weight and will feed a large family – and a few guests – for breakfast. They are best opened with a drill, the farmer advises, so the shell can be brightly painted in very XXL Easter egg fashion.

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