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Ostrich, kangaroo and other exotic meats off the menu

The supermarket chain Somerfield yesterday said it had abandoned its plans to sell ostrich, kangaroo and crocodile meat. Amanda Kelly explains how companies are responding to customer concern over the farming of exotic meats.

The Somerfield chain, which includes Gateway, Solo and Food Giant stores, was due to sell ostrich, kangaroo and crocodile meat next week as part of a new cooked-to-order meat range. But yesterday the company announced that they had been taken off the menu.

Ostrich meat first appeared in British shops in 1990. It was hoped that the low-fat meat would prove popular with a health-conscious nation. But, even with the red meat scare over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the idea has never really taken off.

A Somerfield spokesman said yesterday: "We always test customer reaction before we introduce new products and our research showed that there was some concern about the way the meat is produced."

The move comes less than two weeks after Britain's largest supermarket chain, Tesco, announced that it would no longer be selling kangaroo steaks or other exotic meats because of a lack of demand. Concern over animal welfare is said to be partly behind the decision by Safeway, Marks and Spencer and the Co-op not to stock the exotic lines. Sainsbury said it would continue selling them in "a small number of stores", while Waitrose said it would continue selling them until customer demand told them otherwise.

The main method of slaughter on the 400 ostrich farms in Britain is electric stunning, although in some cases a bolt pistol is used to knock the animal out before it is killed. Philip Lymbery, Campaigns Director or Compassion in World Farming, believes that both these methods are cruel. He added: "We believe that ostriches are fundamentally unsuited to farming. They are essentially wild animals, easily frightened, difficult to handle and difficult to rear."

Craig Culley, secretary of the British Domesticated Ostrich Association, said: "All farms are monitored by the local authority and are checked regularly by vets ... Our policy is to do everything the clean way as people demand and the animals do not suffer."