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The Last Page
Forty Acres and an Emu
By Neil Williams
First off, let's define successful farming. Success to our
farm is having more money coming in than money going out, however small that
difference is. Achieving success on our farm has required constant reevaluation
and constantly looking for more ways to generate revenue.
As with many emu ranchers, Lois and I got into the emu business because we were
tired of the constant demands of corporate America and of working for someone
else. We looked for something that would utilize our 40 acre farm. We studied
and researched the emu industry and the emu appeared to fit our future needs and
to fit the health conscious future of all Americans. The potential value of the
birds looked excellent. The products from the emu appeared to have tremendous
potential for great success. Our primary interest in the birds were for the
commercial market and for retirement income.
In our first year, we acquired 2 proven emu breeders, 2 yearlings
and 2 chicks as our foundation stock. Most of the stock that we have today came
from this original stock.
In the early years, we joined the Tennessee Emu Association, the American Emu
Association and the Tennessee Ratite Association and have maintained a
continuous membership in all of these organizations as they provide current
information and support for our growing industry. We also joined the co-ops
because they appeared to be the best way for the individual farmer to profit
from not only his birds but also from the products of the birds.
We sold a few birds between 1993 and 1995 but none at the exorbitant breeder
pricing that were evident throughout our industry. In 1995, realizing that the
market was going to move much slower than we originally expected, we started
selling emu meat and emu oil products for the co-ops and other emu oil product
companies enjoying minimal success.
In late 1996, I was laid off from TSS ( a division of IBM). Even though I was
offered jobs from several other computer companies because of my 30 years
experience, Lois and I elected to try to go it on our own and focus completely
on the emu industry. At that time, we had 7-800 emus to be fed and an industry
that was struggling. Even though we had always been members of all of the bird
associations, we had never had the time to be actively involved in those
associations. We realized immediately that if we were to survive in this
industry, we needed to get actively involved and try to have input as to the
direction of our industry. I immediately ran for the board of directors for
United Emu and was elected and later became President of that Co-op, a position
I still hold today. I also immediately ran for the board of directors for the
Tennessee Emu Association and was elected President of that association. A
position that I held for 2 years. Lois ran for and was elected to the board of
directors for the Tennessee Ratite Association, a position that she holds today.
During this past year, I was elected to the Board of Directors for the American
Emu Association representing Region 2 and was elected Vice-president at the AEA
Board meeting in Biloxi, MS.
Although we don't consider ourselves as highly successful at this point, income
does exceed outgo and we feel that this is a positive sign. The things that we
attribute to making this positive swing is, of course hard work and
determination, believing in our products and making every attempt to get them in
places where they can be tested and used. Above all else, we believe that being
actively involved with our industries associations and attending meetings has
been the most beneficial. By doing this, we stay on the leading edge of our
technology and our growing industry. We also gain the benefit of exchanging
ideas with other producers and sharing their successes and failures. It became
obvious early on that in this highly technical age of internet communications
and heavy competition in all phases of farming that we need to stay involved in
and support our associations. Without them, you are only one farm or one
community with very little clout and your base of information and ideas is very
At the time of my layoff from Tss/IBm, it became obvious that we needed to
reduce our flock from 7-800 to a number that we could afford to feed. It also
became obvious that the co-op that we belonged to was not going to survive. It
was at this point that we approached Glenn Prochaska, another emu farmer with
4-500 birds and discussed a partnership company that would produce meat and oil
products. We combined the flocks of both farms and incorporated Dino-Meat
Company and BackCountry emu oil products. The partnership offered several
complementing areas, Glenn owned a small Tennessee State approved processing
facility and had been processing and marketing rabbit meat for 15+ years and had
meat markets developed in Tennessee and up and down the east coast from
Connecticut to Miami. His established market base and our marketing ideas could
allow us to move emu into those meat and oil markets. In last half of 1997 and
all of 1998, we had over 750 birds processed under USDA and sold emu meat and
oil products from these birds.
In the meantime, we were unhappy with the feed quality and pricing from others
and created our own feed based on Roger Haley formulas and started using and
selling feed. We also gained Tennessee state approval to custom process emus and
have processed 1000+ for area farmers over a 2 year period. We have also
modified cattle trailers to enable us to haul birds and we haul birds for
others. Through our efforts, we have created the following markets:
(1) 8 to 10 upscale restaurants serving emu meat.
(2) 8-10 meat markets selling/offering emu meat
(3) 3 area hospitals recommending and promoting emu meat
(4) Listed with TN. Dept. of Agriculture as a PickTNProduct company.
(5) Hatching and selling chicks internationally, having shipped close to 1000 to
(6) Have pain reliever and pure emu oil products in pharmacies, hospitals,
health stores, etc.
(6) Have created a meat stick that is in roadside markets and truck stops.
(Currently being considered by a major truck stop distributor.)
(7) Selling emu liver and hearts to a large fish bait distributor.
(8) Selling emu legs and toenails to 2 different craft distributors
(9) Selling emu eggs to a number of crafters and artists.
(10) Offering trade programs to area farmers, trading birds for meat and oil
(11) Offering our farm as a tour farm for Nashville area day-tour companies.
(12) Internet sales via our website (www.dinomeat.com)
Neil & Lois Williams may also be contacted via:
telephone(615) 643-1022 or (615) 325-6903
telefax (615) 643-1022 or (615) 325-5097
or snail mail:
P.O. Box 95
White House, TN. 37188