LAST CALL: TX ranchers want Americans flippin' bird in the kitchen

Texas is cattle country. Anyone who's seen the old TV series Dallas or a John Wayne movie knows that.

Texas is cattle country. Anyone who's seen the old TV series Dallas or a John Wayne movie knows that.

So why is September Ostrich Month in the Lone Star State? Credit some grassroots PR efforts by Texas ostrich raisers. They successfully lobbied the governor to declare September Ostrich Month.

Yes, there are ostrich ranchers in Texas. In fact, the state supplies 51% of all ostrich raised in the US, according to the Texas Ostrich Association.

The association has been working for years to gain wider recognition for ostrich, exhibiting at food and agricultural shows across the state.

But having its own month is special.

"It gives us some credibility," says Terry Jallo, a Texas association director and owner of the Dakota Rock Ostrich Farm, north of Dallas.

Jallo has been raising baby ostriches for almost 11 years, and heard all the barbs from his cattle-raising neighbors. "They assume it's a big chicken," he says. But he can tick off all the reasons ostrich meat is healthier than beef, and he's proud of the number of upscale restaurants that offer ostrich dishes.

Texas Ostrich Association president John Hartwell says he and his peers are getting less ribbing than they once did from their cattle-raising neighbors. "Six to 10 years ago, people would look at you like you're from another planet," he recalls. "Today, I don't know if 'acceptance' is the right word, but 'tolerated' would be accurate."

However, Jallo and Hartwell know that Ostrich Month or not, ostrich meat still needs to get into major supermarket chains before it becomes a staple in the American diet. Until then, "we don't even cause a pimple on the beef guy's radar," Jallo jokes. Maybe what they need to do next is get some CGI ostrich herds drawn into a Dallas rerun.

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