it a bird? Is it a fowl? (Gasp!) It's an ostrich!
Nueva Ecija, too!
red tin signboard along Maharlika Highway in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija
tells it as it is: "Gross Ostrich Farm." At first glance, one will think
that "Gross Ostrich" is such a whimsical name for a farm -- like "Wily
Coyote"... or "Tasmanian Devil." Until one learns that the farm, indeed,
raises ostriches, and is owned by a man surnamed Gross.
The Gross Ostrich Farm
Import and Export Corporation Limited is hidden
nearly two kilometers from
the national highway, down a narrow road
that runs beside an irrigation
The farm is in Barangay
Tagumpay, San Leonardo, with the access road turning
right from Maharlika Highway,
just before Barangay Tabuating, going to Cabanatuan City.
Barely one year old, the
one-hectare farm has a roughly finished hollow-block house,
a huge shed, water tank,
and fenced-off areas. It looks like any other farm that raises animals,
until one gets close enough...
and sees the giant creatures
being kept inside.
The ostriches, imported
from the United States as day-old chicks,
stand six feet tall and
could grow to as high as seven feet.
Upon maturity, they will
weigh between 100 and 160 kilograms each.
A live ostrich, just a peck
This guy could live up to
60 or 70 years old!
They're generally gentle
creatures, though they're known to kick when agitated.
The farm is owned by German
national Michael Gross and his Filipina wife Liza.
Herr Gross worked for 26
years as chef in big-name hotels in Germany,
United Kingdom, South Africa,
Malaysia, Fiji, and New Zealand. It was while on a stint
in South Africa that he
saw his first ostrich farm. In time, he hung up his
toque and apron, and settled
down to start his own ostrich farm in Nueva Ecija --
the first in Luzon, and
one of only two such farms in the entire Philippines.
Herr Gross plays with one
of his 120 ostriches.
He personally attends to
his giant birds with the help of four local farmhands.
Ostriches need space to
run around, so they're kept inside large outdoor pens.
The huge shed is where the
birds are sheltered when the weather turns nasty.
The ostriches subsist on
commercial feed pellets, chopped kangkong leaves,
and grasses. They love to
graze, and when they're through, not a blade or root of grass
is left, making their once
green feeding area totally bereft of any vegetation.
What are ostriches for?
They produce low-fat red meat akin to beef.
The meat is highly valued
as a gourmet food, and could sell for up to
500 pesos a kilo. Herr Gross
has been receiving inquiries for the supply of
tons of ostrich meat from
hotels and restaurants in Metro Manila,
but right now, there's is
just no way he could comply with the orders.
Ostrich skin, which Herr
Gross takes to Meycauayan, Bulacan for tanning
is highly valued by top
fashion houses like Gucci as material for top-of-the-line
leather goods. Ostrich feather
is used as gown ornaments by couture houses.
If, one day, you should
find flocks of ostriches dotting the landscape of the province,
think of Michael Gross --
the German chef who introduced the big birds to Nueva Ecija.
photos by Ramon R. Valmonte