Ideal large flightless bird for domesticated cattle

So, just to be clear, when I mean "giant birds", I mean the families that presently consist of giant flightless birds (think moas, emus, ostriches, etc.) - the ones that came up with roughly similar body plans due to convergent evolution.

Given that we're using a large flightless bird (at least the ones which have existed), which one would be ideal to domesticate, using genetic engineering/selective breeding, with the goal of creating cattle? For now, we're just going to ignore whether this is a good idea or not, and beyond what motives a group or individual would have for doing such a thing.

To recap, ideal large flightless birds domesticated* for cattle purposes,

  • (Mild) Genetic engineering is a viable solution to make it feasible (if that wasn't clear before, eg modern knowledge and capabilities with regards to technology(genetic engineering technology and capabilities)

  • Presume any extinct birds are "resurrected" in identical to near-identical genetic forms, and then mild genetic engineering is applied from there.

  • Any form of large flightless bird would be allowed regardless if they're currently extinct or not

  • Are raising them for meat and eggs

  • Doesn't matter if they're extinct or not(currently)

  • Were going to pretend I had remedied that some people had domesticated Ostriches AND Emus, and restate the question as any potentially large flightless birds which would be better suited for cattle roles

  • Edit:

  • Note: Genetic engineering isn't magic. It takes a large amount of time and energy to make minor changes to an organism. You can't use an animal as a template and make it from scratch, doing such a thing would probably take at least 20 years. Consuingly you can't really use it to make the "ideal" animal with goal X in mind, just make animal Y slightly better at doing X.

  • Enviroment similar to Colorado

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 18 '21 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ It should be noted that large birds are difficult as livestock. At our local university I took several animal science and meat science classes (agriculture program stuff), and there were more than one anecdotes about ostriches there, which they experimented with. Turns out they're difficult to stun/kill, the conventional methods with a bolt gun do not work because the target area's so small. Even if the civilization weren't concerned with such things, abattoirs might resemble slapstick sketches more than an efficient business enterprise. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Apr 19 '21 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnO I think with an ostrich I'd probably just go for decapitation, something spring loaded on a pole like a cross between a cigar cutter & a man catcher should do the trick with a minimum of fuss I'd think. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 19 '21 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ The edit, far from narrowing things down and making the question answerable, has made it broader and even more subjective and opinion-based. Please define the conditions of the question with precision - that's how you'll avoid closure as opinion-based. $\endgroup$ May 13 '21 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @A Rouge Ant which edit? $\endgroup$
    – Madman
    May 13 '21 at 20:30

Elephant Bird

Elephant birds are probably your best bet for a large, domesticated avian. They're very large, so they should have a lot of meat on them, and perhaps even more notably they produce very large eggs that have a lot of uses beyond eating. The Malagasy people frequently used elephant bird eggs (both collected while the birds were alive as well as archaeological ones dug up from old elephant bird nesting grounds) and used them to make pots, water jugs, and containers. So elephant birds provide tools in addition to food.

Only problem is elephant birds were likely nocturnal and may have been nearly blind. It might require different husbandry techniques as I don't know of any modern domesticate that is primarily nocturnal.

Haven't been able to track down any good references for the diet of the elephant bird. Google claims they were fruit-eating but most of the papers I've found support them eating C3 vegetation. However, I know that some of the moa species are known to have primarily fed on leafy vegetation and grasses. Though their eggs are smaller than elephant birds and they may not be as tough or useable as pots.

  • $\begingroup$ "I don't know of any modern domesticate that is primarily nocturnal." Cats? $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Apr 18 '21 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 they're not really (cats that is), more a case of perfectly happy either or, accept they are more active night than day without our interference so they are of course, point well made, our original primary use for them (independent pest extermination units) didn't require them to be active when we were so maybe not a helpful example when talking of herd animals? // honey gliders & chinchilla? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 18 '21 at 16:26

Just use Ostriches, why wouldn't you?

  1. they're here.
  2. they're not extinct.
  3. already more or less big enough.
  4. we already farm them in the real world.
  5. they live in flocks which makes herding relatively easy.
  6. their eggs make handy water flasks, bushmen use them as such.
  7. they lay their eggs in a single (convenient for collection) communal nest.
  8. though predominantly known for deserts are perfectly happy in a wide range of environments.

The fact that in the real world they are the most popular commercially farmed giant flightless bird suggests that they are the most appropriate & don't need a lot of alteration.

I don't see anything you want ordinary bog standard selective breading & domestication can't do from there including size, laying season & clutch size, but then the same holds true for any other species of giant flightless bird.

Umm, hang on, what was your question again? because I just realised I can't actually see one. I assumed it was which species would be the most appropriate? but it's not actually clear that it is.

So I'll pause my answer there pending clarification.

  • $\begingroup$ It's conjecture. Almost everything on this stack exchange is. Conjecture with a scientific basis, sure but still conjecture. I don't see how this question being conjecture results in it being justified in closing. $\endgroup$
    – Madman
    Apr 18 '21 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ Not relevant to the question does not mean not relevant to the answer // extinct means no available data or details to be able to tell if they are appropriate or not (or at least not as much) ergo an answer that doesn't just make stuff up can only rely on non-extinct ones // oh & don't shout it's rude. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 18 '21 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – Madman
    Apr 18 '21 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ I see your Ostrich and raise you an Emu. They taste better, and their eggs taste better. $\endgroup$ Apr 19 '21 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronLavers yes it did have a gamey tinge to it, was a pack of unfrozen burgers, I quite liked it, you have to remember we have a long tradition of hanging our meat here in the UK (take that as you will) // though admittedly the practice has fallen off of late, probably hung too long ;) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 20 '21 at 10:10

As soon as you allowed "genetic engineering", you pretty much made an answer impossible. ANY bird species, flightless or not, can be genetically engineered to be anything you want (within the constraints of biomechanics). Take an ostrich. Make its legs stronger and you can make the body (and meat production) larger. Do you want it more docile? Go ahead, that's what "genetic engineering" is for.

Birds which are already large and flightless would seem to be the choices which require the least modification, but other than that there's no obvious reason for picking one species or another. Modify genes to get whatever you want.

  • $\begingroup$ Note: Genetic engineering isn't magic. It takes a large amount of time and energy to make minor changes to an organism. You can't use an animal as a template and make it from scratch, doing such a thing would probably take at least 20 years. Consuingly you can't really use it to make the "ideal" animal with goal X in mind, just make animal Y slightly better at doing X. $\endgroup$
    – Madman
    Apr 19 '21 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ Question has been edited. Point taken. $\endgroup$
    – Madman
    Apr 19 '21 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ @TheMadmanandtheFool - You said "genetic engineering", not "genetic engineering at current levels of knowledge" (although it seems clear from your comment that that is what you intended). So, with sufficiently-advanced genetic engineering, there is no obvious reason you couldn't make the necessary changes in one generation. Nor that you cannot produce an "ideal" (whatever that means) animal. And yes, this is somewhat cheating. You may or may not have heard of Clarke's Law: "Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," $\endgroup$ Apr 19 '21 at 15:51

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