When can babies eat ostrich meat?
Ostrich meat may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. At this stage in their lives, babies (and especially breastfed babies) need lots of iron, protein, and zinc on a regular basis. Ostrich has all of these essential nutrients and more!
Background and origins of ostrich
Ostrich is a lean red meat with similar color, taste, and texture to beef (though ostrich meat has more iron, and less fat than beef). The large bird is native to Africa, where ostrich is a common source of protein in the human diet. In the United States, ostrich remains a specialty food product, yet ostrich farming is becoming increasingly popular as raising the birds is more efficient in many ways than raising beef cattle.1
Ostrich is a terrific (though pricey) alternative to beef, but the meat can be hard to find at the average American grocery store. Unless you live near an ostrich farm or a local farmer’s market that offers the product, try placing an online order of frozen ostrich meat from specialty food stores or directly from farmers. Illinois currently has the most ostrich farms in the United States.2
Is ostrich meat healthy for babies?
Yes! Ostrich is a rich source of iron and protein—essential nutrients that your baby needs to grow and thrive. When it comes to protein, ostrich is on par with bison and pasture-raised beef. Compared with conventional beef, ostrich contains almost double the amount of vitamin B12 and notably higher levels of all other B-vitamins, iron, and selenium. Zinc levels are slightly lower than beef, yet ostrich is still an excellent source of the essential nutrient.
Is ostrich meat a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Meat is a common cause of choking and must be prepared in an age-appropriate way for your baby. Never serve cubes or chunks of meat to your baby.
Is ostrich meat a common allergen?
No. Ostrich is not a common food allergen, though in theory, one could be allergic to any food. When introducing ostrich for the first couple of times, serve a small quantity and watch closely as your baby eats to monitor for any signs of a reaction.
How do you prepare ostrich meat for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 7 months old: Try serving well-done strips of ostrich meat, about the size and length of two adult fingers together. Ironically at this age, the bigger and more resistive the food, the easier and safer it is for your baby to consume. Be sure to remove loose gristle and offer a whole strip to your baby, who will be able to get a decent amount of nutrients just by sucking on the meat. If your baby is able to tear off pieces of the meat while munching, move on to ground patties.
8 to 12 months old: Serve ground ostrich in the form of a patty alongside applesauce or yogurt, which will add moisture and aid swallowing. If a too-big piece of meat breaks off in your baby’s mouth, try not to intervene. Gagging is both normal and healthy in this developmental stage, as babies learn to move food around in their mouths. If you’re worried, coach your baby to spit out the piece of meat by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “blah” repeatedly.
12 to 24 months old: Continue with ground ostrich patties. Serving a patty on top of applesauce, mayonnaise, or yogurt aids swallowing. You may also try cooking ground or minced ostrich and serving the crumbled meat on its own or mixed into a dish of lentils or rice. If you feel your child has become an advanced eater (chews well, swallows easily, puts an appropriate amount of food in their mouth and doesn’t over-stuff), you can offer bite-sized pieces as a finger food (just avoid serving chunks or cubes of meat, as these pose a higher choking risk).
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Ostrich Burgers
- Ground ostrich
- Shallot or onion
- Olive oil
- Egg (optional)
- Breadcrumbs (optional)
- Lemon juice (optional)
- Sweet paprika (optional)
- If the ostrich meat is frozen, defrost it on a plate in your refrigerator (never on the counter) for several hours or overnight.
- Finely chop 1 shallot or ½ onion. Sauté with a splash of olive oil in a skillet on medium low heat.
- While the onion is cooking, finely chop 1 clove of garlic and add it to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Place 1 pound of ground ostrich in a bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic and set the skillet aside for later use. Mix the meat, onion, and garlic together with your hands. It’s not necessary, but at this stage, you could also add an egg and some breadcrumbs for extra flavor. For older babies, try adding spices to introduce new flavors.
- Form the meat mixture into small patties. Cook in the skillet over medium heat. For faster cooking, cover the skillet while the patties are cooking.
- After a few minutes, flip the patties. To test for readiness, cut one patty in half and make sure it’s well done, with no pink meat inside. Let cool. Set side a couple patties for your baby’s meal, and store the rest in a sealed container in the freezer for easy reheating at future mealtimes.
- Serve the patties with applesauce, Greek yogurt, or mayonnaise as a dip. For added flavor, try whisking in a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sweet paprika to the dip.
Ostrich can be gamey and slightly sweeter than other red meats. It can easily serve as a substitute for ground beef or turkey in almost any recipe. Try serving ostrich in casseroles, chilis, and stews. Spices that pair well include coriander, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, and thyme.
- Amelinckx, A. (2016, Feb. 11). Ostrich… It’s what’s for dinner. Civil Eats. (website) Retrieved January 21, 2020
- Renault, M. (2016, Sept. 25) Decades after it crashed, ostrich industry poised to take off as demand grows. Chicago Tribune. (website) Retrieved January 21, 2020