Small Business Success Story: American Ostrich Farms

This Kuna, Idaho, entrepreneur started his business to launch a red meat revolution.

Malcolm Hong Nov 3, 2020

In 2013, Alexander McCoy founded American Ostrich Farms because he believed ostriches could disrupt the $1.4 trillion global protein market.  

Like the large birds he raises, McCoy made tremendous strides. His company is the largest ostrich producer in America and is positioned to soon overtake South Africa as the global leader in vertically integrated ostrich production.    

McCoy shares lessons learned from starting a red meat revolution.

What inspired you to start your small business?

In 2011, I was living in South Africa and first had ostrich when I was training for a full-length Ironman® Triathlon. Although I was on a strict training diet, I was craving red meat and ate a huge ostrich steak on a “cheat day.”

I expected the inevitable food coma, but after digesting for only an hour, I completed a 16-mile run that was among the fastest I’ve ever had during my months of training. Because I realized ostrich was an option that could satisfy red meat cravings and allow us to eat healthfully, I was determined to bring it into the mainstream back home in the U.S.

man in front of ostriches

Why do you believe ostriches can be impactful to America’s food industry?

meat and asparagus

Switching to ostrich is an easy choice for red meat lovers. Ostrich tastes like a delicious, lean filet mignon, but is higher in iron and lower in cholesterol, saturated fat and calories compared to other red meats. Because it’s significantly easier to digest, ostrich is a great choice for athletes and those who live an active lifestyle.

A growing number of consumers are also concerned about climate change and want to reduce their carbon footprint. Compared to beef, ostriches use one-third of the fresh water, one-fiftieth of the land, and emit less than one-tenth of the greenhouse gases per pound of meat produced. There’s also reduced waste because virtually every part of the animal can be used to create products that consumers love.

How have you adjusted your business or business model in light of COVID-19?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, American Ostrich Farms was actively working with foodservice and restaurants to get ostrich onto menus across the country. After they closed due to lockdowns, I had to pursue other options to get my products to market.

Because I recognized the pandemic would increase online orders, I focused my business on direct consumer sales, which have quadrupled since the pandemic began earlier this year.

burger with a pickle spear

What tips do you have for other small businesses seeking to grow?

It’s important to plan not only for market trends now, but market trends that will be relevant in the years to come. When I was first introduced to ostrich meat in 2010, environmental concerns weren’t as prominent as they are today, but I felt it would become an important trend in the years ahead.

The year 2020 has been a wake-up call for many consumers. With the impact of disrupted supply chains and the historic wildfires, more consumers are concerned about sustainability – both for our food system and our environment overall. American Ostrich Farm is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a growing wave of conscious, forward-thinking consumers who also care about their health. 

What role did Zions Bank play in your journey to small business owner?

When I was first getting started, the Idaho Business Resource Center was a great resource to my business. I also recommend that small businesses leverage Zions Bank Treasury Management tools, which make it easy to pay employees and bank remotely.

Looking to follow in Alexander’s footsteps and start your own small business? Zions Bank offers online business tools including business templates, columns, videos and financial calculators. Our Business Resource Centers in Salt Lake City and Boise provide counseling and training for entrepreneurs.

Zions Bank’s team of relationship managers can help you find the right SBA loan[cite::8030::cite] for your business. Apply for a business loan online anytime or visit a local Zions Bank branch to learn more.

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