Bird-meat donation ruffles feathers

March 11, 2007 -- Eric Heyl If you're a bird lover, this tale might leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The night before Linda Dickerson was named the National Aviary's CEO last week, the Homeless Children's Education Fund held its annual fundraiser at the Rivers Club, Downtown.

Dickerson, 46, the nonprofit education fund's former board chairwoman, donated a basket of items for the event's silent auction. The assortment included a variety of Ostrim meat sticks and jerky.

A main ingredient of Ostrim is ostrich.

That's correct. Just hours prior to Dickerson's being named caretaker of the nation's premier birdhouse, she was helping peddle the seasoned flesh of fleet, flightless birds to the highest bidder.

It's doubtful the aviary's collection of white-crested laughing thrushes chuckled much over the irony.

Dickerson's father, Logan Dickerson, 79, of Hempfield, Westmoreland County, owns a farm that breeds ostriches. State Bureau of Corporations records also identify him as president and treasurer of Protos Inc.

On its Web site, Protos advises that its beef-and-ostrich Ostrim sticks are great on the grill, delicious in omelettes and can be a healthy, nutritious snack when served with your favorite cheese on a tasty grain cracker.

They also come in pepper, barbecue and teriyaki flavors.

Given Dickerson's family ties, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals finds her appointment as aviary CEO difficult to digest.

"If indeed Ms. Dickerson does have ties to ostrich slaughterers, then it certainly seems dangerous to place any birds under her wing," said Matt Prescott, PETA manager of factory farming and vegan campaigns.

He added: "Whether a parrot, an ostrich or a chicken, all birds feel pain and fear, and deserve to be protected from the types of abuses that those killed for food endure."

Dickerson said on Friday she doesn't understand why anyone would be aghast over her familial links to a company that sells ostrich meat.

"People can draw whatever conclusions they desire," she said, "but I have no connection whatsoever with my parents' company."

Asked about the Ostrim auction basket, Dickerson said, "My parents made that donation."

The Homeless Children's Education Fund Web site, however, identified Dickerson as the donor of "a basket full of Ostrim Healthy Snack Products: Ostrim meat sticks, Ostrim Jerkies, and other ostrich meat products. Value: $60"

Dispelling any notion that packages of Ostrim might tumble out if you opened her kitchen cupboards, Dickerson contended she has never eaten the product.

"I am as unattached to it as you can get," she said.

According to the big birdhouse's own literature, "The National Aviary inspires respect for nature through an appreciation of birds."

That appreciation can be gained in many ways.

Some acquire it by marveling over the black-bordered white crest of the hooded merganser, others by gazing in fascination at the long, tipped tails of the victoria crowned pigeon.

Still others obtain it, evidently, by consuming a big plate of teriyaki ostrich jerky.

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