Emu enthusiasts flocking to Fargo

While interest in the emu industry has waned since the its heyday in the mid-1990s, about 35 to 40 emu enthusiasts are expected in Fargo for a two-day convention.

Joy w Phil.jpg
Joylene Reavis with Phil, an emu she once owned.
Photo courtesy Joylene Reavis.
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FARGO — The American Emu Association is coming to Fargo for its convention Sept. 15-17.

While interest in the emu industry has waned since its heyday in the mid-1990s, about 35 to 40 emu enthusiasts are expected in Fargo for the two-day convention.

That's according to Joylene Reavis, of Monroe, Wisconsin, an organizer of the Fargo get-together.

"It's going to be a very small convention," Reavis said, explaining that due to COVID-19 and the state of the economy, convention attendance is expected to be down from the 50-60 people who typically attended in the past.

"They are from all around the U.S.," Reavis said, referring to association members.


She said this convention will be the first time the association, which formed in the late 1980s, has met in Fargo, adding that the group tries to pick different cities each time it holds a convention.

The convention will be held at ClubHouse Hotel & Suites, 4400 15th Ave. S., in Fargo.

Reavis said that in the past the association has had as many as 5,000 members, but interest in emus has fallen dramatically after reaching a peak around 1995.

At that time, emu bonded pairs were selling for about $20,000, according to Reavis, who said that today, emus sell for about $1,200-$1,500 for each bird of a bonded pair.

Reavis said she operated an emu farm for 18 years in Brodhead, Wisconsin, with her late husband, Mike, and after her husband's death she continued to operate the farm for a time before selling it.

Though she no longer raises emus, Reavis said she continues to sell emu products as part of her online business, the Sugar Maple Emu Farm , and she served on the board of directors of the American Emu Association for many years.

According to Reavis, emus are raised as a source of meat, and the oil derived from the meat processing is marketed as a health product that can be used topically or ingested orally.

"It's very nutritional meat and it is one of the few dark red meats that people with the Alpha-gal allergy can eat, so there's been a great demand for emu meat," Reavis said, referring to an allergy to red meat that some people have developed after being bitten by a Lone Star tick, an insect Reavis said is spreading across the U.S.


She said emu oil contains antioxidants and fatty acids that are good for cell metabolism and conditions like joint pain.

JoAnna Stinar, who operates Morning Star Ranch in Inkster, North Dakota , has been a part of the emu industry since about 1995, around the time the popularity of the bird reached its zenith and began to wane.

She said what kept the business going in an ever-changing market was an ability to switch between different emu products depending on what was doing well and what wasn't.

Another thing that kept the business healthy?

"We didn't borrow money to get involved," Stinar said, adding that she didn't jump too deeply into the emu business right away. Instead, she eased into it.

She said she's happy this year's convention is being held in Fargo.

"I'm so excited; I don't have to take a plane ride," she said.

Reavis said emu enthusiasts enjoy talking about the birds, and she expects there will be lots of such talk at the upcoming convention.


"If you get an emu farmer talking about emus, it's hard to get 'em to shut up," Reavis said, adding that the birds themselves are very docile most of the time.

"Now and then, you get one that gets cantankerous; we'll usually turn them into a meat stick," she added.

Reavis said she would caution anyone who is thinking about getting an emu as a pet, because the diminutive and adorable chick that so easily charms their heart will soon become a very large bird that many people may not be able to handle.

"People don't realize that," Reavis said.

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