San Angelo Came Close to Having Ostrich Statues Instead of Sheep
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are about 62,000 sheep in the Concho Valley region. There are also approximately 700,000 head of cattle. You won't find any active ostrich farms, however.
It wasn't always that way.
Here in San Angelo, several ostrich farms were established in the region. By 1914 there were over 1000 ostriches in San Angelo.
The first ostrich farm was established in 1902 by J.C. Montgomery. Since the 1850s, ostrich farming has been massive in the Los Angeles basin in California. J.C. Montgomery had a hunch that the San Angelo area would be better suited for ostriches than California.
For one thing, San Angelo has a favorable environment and climate for ostriches. They are adapted to live in hot, dry climates. San Angelo's warm temperatures and low humidity were well-suited to their needs.
In addition, San Angelo was situated on several major transportation routes. This made it easier for ostrich farmers, even in the early 1900s, to transport their birds and eggs to other parts of the country to be sold.
Ostriches are primarily vegetarian and require a diet of grasses and grains. These are abundant in the Concho Valley region.
Historic ostrich farms in the San Angelo area were concentrated in two regions, Christoval and Knickerbocker. Well-known ostrich farms in Christoval included the Christoval Ostrich Farm and the Stribing Ostrich Farm. In Knickerbocker, the most notable ostrich farm had the San Angelo Ostrich Farm and the Knickerbocker Ostrich Farm.
At their peak, San Angelo was home to thousands of ostriches. The farms employed hundreds of people and were a significant source of revenue for the region's economy. In addition to producing feathers, ostrich farmers sold ostrich eggs which were considered delicacies.
With the current chicken egg shortage, perhaps ostrich farming could come back. One ostrich egg can weigh 3.3 pounds. That is the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs. Ostrich eggs are similar to chicken eggs and have a richer creamier flavor with a lower water content. They have a milder flavor and are slightly sweeter than chicken eggs.
As a result, ostrich eggs need more seasoning to taste good.
Unfortunately, one ostrich egg is still way more expensive than two dozen eggs, even at today's prices. One chicken egg can go for $20-$30.
Changing fashion and the Great Depression did a number on the ostrich farms in our region. By the mid-1930s, they were primarily gone.
Ostrich farming made a bit of a comeback in the 1990s. There was a surge in demand for ostrich meat, which is lean and flavorful. Ostrich meat was considered a healthy alternative to beef or pork. Ostrich leather was also popular because of its unique texture and durability.
Unfortunately, high start-up costs, market saturation, and disease outbreaks decimated the industry once again. It never made a comeback here in the Concho Valley.
I guess many people do not realize just how close we came in San Angelo to having ostrich statues all over town instead of sheep.
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