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 Composition of Ratite Oils 
Fatty Acid Composition: Comparative Analysis of Emu,
Ostrich, and Rhea Oil

M C. Craig-Schmidt and K R Willian

Department of Nutrition and Food Science
Auburn University
Auburn, AL 36849

Emu (Dromicelus novae-hollandiae), ostrich (Struthio camelus) and rhea (Pterocnemia pennata) are large flightless birds. The oil from the emu is currently being used in the cosmetic industry because of its skin-softening and penetration properties, and there is interest in commercial use of oils from the ostrich and rhea as well.

Previously, we had reported the fatty acid composition of emu oil ([NFORM 6: 450, 1995). The purpose of this study was thus to determine the fatty acid composition of ostrich and rhea oil and compare it to the composition of emu oil.

The predominant fatty acid in ostrich oil (n=20) and rhea oil (n=23) was palmitic acid at 34.9 +or- 3.6% o total fatty acids and 34.4 +or- 2.8%, respectively, whereas the predominant fatty acid in emu oil was oleic acid (41.8 +or- 3.8%). 0leic acid was 30.5 +or- 3.4% in ostrich and 30.6 +or- 2.9% in rhea, and palmitic acid was 21.4 +or- 2.4% in emu.

Other fatty acids in ostrich and rhea, respectively, were: myristic 1.6% and 1.3%; palmitoleic, 7.4% and 4.596; stearic 5.7% and 5.4%; linoleic 16.0% and 21.0% and alpha-linolenic 2.196 and 1.9%.

Thus, in general, the ostrich and rhea oils have similar fatty acid compositions, and both have more palmitic acid and less oleic acid than emu oil.

Abstracts: AOCS Meeting 1997, Seattle, WA

(Note: It should be useful to add that rhea oil has similar biological activity to emu oil.  Ostrich oil has been tested and found to posses little if any biological activity of that nature.)

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