The Other Red Meat

It’s been described as leaner, sweeter and richer than beef. Bison, or buffalo meat, is becoming more popular as a meat option in the United States and consequently, so is the niche market of bison farming.

The National Bison Association (NBA) reported 2010 as the strongest year on record for the industry. Bison meat is averaging $7 per pound, which is an increase of $2 compared to 2009. It is the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for bison meat in the marketplace.

The Detroit Free Press reported about this growing trend and talked to Krista Pohl of Pohl's Bison in Clare, Michigan. Pohl attributes sales increases to "word-of-mouth" marketing and the popular movement to eat healthier, local foods.

Other bison proponents note that bison is a versatile ingredient, cooks quicker at decreased temperatures and isn’t subject to the recall rates of other meats (

Bison Meat Facts (NBA and
  • Nearly 75 percent leaner than beef
  • 92,000 head were processed in North America (less than one day's beef production in the U.S.)
  • Male bison are typically between 950 and 1250 pounds when they are ready for butchering and can stand six feet tall
  • The average bison produces about 450 pounds of meat
  • 450,000 is the estimated herd size in North America
  • 4,500 private ranches and farms nationwide
  • Bison are ranched in every U.S. state
  • Bison price is driven by scarcity
  • There are three subspecies of bison: the Plains bison, Wood bison, and the European Wisent
Laudably, every part of the animal is used after its butchered.

“Leather is made into pillows and gloves; offal and bones go to the pet industry. Even the winter coats they shed when the weather warms can be sold,” stated a Calgary Herald story.

An impressive list of bison byproducts is located at the NBA website and includes items such as paint and medicine bags.

As bison-meat demand increases, more bison ranchers are needed. The NBA launched a recruitment effort to draw in bison farmers throughout the country. Its website houses material for current and potential bison ranchers to assist with the success of their operations.

“Our main task today is to work with producers, and prospective producers, to build the herds of buffalo around the country to keep pace with our growing markets,” said Dave Carter, executive director of the NBA.

Besides the market incentive, there are other advantages to raising bison.

According to a Calgary Herald story, “Ranching bison also requires less upkeep: no bedding is necessary, and the animals' metabolism slows down in the winter so ranchers don't have to augment their diet.”

Have you ever considered cooking with bison? Try this recipe for an interesting bison-take on traditional meatloaf.

Have you had bison? Do you know a bison farmer?

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