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Talk About Animal Farm!


American farmers are raising an increasingly amazing assortment of animals these days: bison; pot-bellied, Vietnamese, and miniature pigs. There are even earthworm farms.

About 1,000 U.S. farmers raise ostriches and their close cousins, Australian emus, for their meat -- certainly not their pleasant temperament. These big, flightless birds will attack you with a vengeance.

Ostrich leather is used to make expensive boots. Ostrich feathers are featured in dusters, hats, and decorations. Ostrich corneas have even been used in human transplants. And connoisseurs of ostrich and emu meat (a hot item at gourmet stores ) say it tastes like steak without the fatty marbling and is low in cholesterol.

Folks at the local cattlemen's club used to laugh at ostrich farmers, until they found out an ostrich or emu lays 30 to 60 eggs a year -- and each chick, just a few days old, can be sold for $1,500 to $2,000.

There are lots of other atypical creatures on U.S. farms these days: South American guanacos and llamas, which look a little like humpless camels with creamy woolen coats, gentle black eyes, and dreamy long eyelashes.

Others raise red ants that wind up populating educational display cases called ant farms that are shipped to fascinated children and adults.

Still more farmers raise alligators, turtles, catfish, reindeer, donkeys, pigeons -- and, of course, 45 million cattle and 59 million hogs.

So the old, American children's song that begins...

"Old MacDonald had a farm.

"Ee-eye-ee-eye-oh.

"And on his farm he had a cow

"Ee-eye-ee-eye-oh. . . ."

And continues through the pig, the horse, and other common barnyard animals needs some updating.

That's because, Old MacDonald just might be raising emus, bees -- maybe even some shrimp!"

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