U.S. FARMERS LOOKING for ways to diversify got together earlier this month in Des Moines, considering among other things raising alligators, llamas and snails. But according to Gretchen Legler of the magazine Agweek, they should have given attention to ostriches.

At the turn of the century, South African ostrich growers got rich raising the birds for their plumes. But their fortunes were blown away like a feather in the wind when fashion changed. Today, however, ostrich growers are selling not just the plumes but the whole bird.What can an ostrich be used for? The skin from the shin is in demand for women's handbags. Claws make good ash trays. Ostrich eggs (or at least the shells) are tourist trinkets. And themeat, which tastes like beef, reportedly is in demand at gourmet restaurants.

Ostrich growers at least can't be said to have their heads in the sand.

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