America’s first national mammal once roamed the vastness between the Rocky and Appalachian mountain ranges 30-60 million animals strong. Up until the 1800s, explorers told of herds so epic they might be at a standstill, waiting more than a day for the bison to pass.
But as European settlers moved farther west, mass destruction of bison herds ensued in an attempt to control the Native Americans—to whom bison were their lifeblood. In the mid-1800s an average of 5000 bison were killed each day, and by 1884 a mere 325 of these noble creatures remained in the United States.
Thanks to conservation efforts we now have more than 500,000 wild bison again and, despite growing in culinary popularity over the past few decades, the meat is still consumed at only a fraction of the rate as is beef. Read on to find out what is so great about America’s original red meat!
High in Protein, Low in Fat and Carbs
While the widespread belief that animal fats contribute to heart disease has been thoroughly disproven (Here, here, here, and here, if you need more convincing), if you’re looking to up your protein while keeping your fat and calorie intake down, bison is a must in your diet! At 24 grams of protein and only 121 calories per 4-oz. serving, 100% grass-fed bison can be up to 96% lean—making it naturally one of the leanest red meat options (source). Despite being so low in fat, it has a wonderfully mild flavor, and is tender when not overcooked!
That same 4-oz. serving of lean bison meat packs 13% of your RDI of iron, 31% of your daily selenium needs (necessary for detoxification), almost 70% of your vitamin B12 RDI (think healthy adrenals, nerves, and blood cells), more than 1/3 of your recommended daily zinc intake (crucial for immune, hormonal, and digestive health), and is a good source of several other B vitamins needed for brain, immune, and cellular health (source). Think of this red meat as a multivitamin on your plate!
Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Fatty Acids
The praises of grass-fed meats have been widely sung for good reason: meat from ruminants on pasture contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, and a special omega-6 called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Why is this important? While both omega-6s and omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, modern diets favor the former heavily due to our consumption of grains, nuts, and seeds—and too many omega-6s can be inflammatory. Researchers believe the optimal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is between 1-to-1 to 4-to-1, while modern diets are closer to 15-to-1. (source).
Despite being lean, meat from grass-fed bison (which most are still are since they aren’t heavily commercialized) is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for heart health, cell membrane health, fat metabolism, and healthy hormones! It also contains CLA, a beneficial omega-6 fatty acid touted for its beneficial effects on heart health and weight control (source).
VERSATILE IN THE KITCHEN
If you’ve been reluctant to try bison for fear of its gaminess, think again! It has zero hint of game, and actually has a milder, sweeter flavor than beef.
Use our ground bison any way that you would use ground beef: burgers, chili, taco filling, shepherd’s pie, sloppy joes, and more! Our stew meat and roasts are also a perfect swap for their beef counterparts. You won’t ever notice the difference!
One note about bison steaks: while amazing when cooked right, be sure not to overcook them! Follow these cooking tips from Wild Idea Buffalo for best results.
AN IMPORTANT LAND & CLIMATE HEALTH TOOL
If you’ve never heard of regenerative grazing or holistic livestock management, it rests on the premise that healthy ecosystems depend on properly-managed grazing animals. While livestock are a popular scapegoat for our climate issues, it’s clear that—with pre-industrial bison numbers in the 10s of millions—large ruminants aren’t to blame. On the contrary, large herds of ranging, grazing animals are to thank for the rich top soil and thriving biological systems that our predecessors inherited.
Truly, well-managed ruminants are one of our greatest untapped resources for carbon sequestration. Take this study from Michigan State University showing that cattle grazed in a certain style are a net carbon sink (source)! Additionally, rotational grazing has the added benefit of improving soil health by adding organic matter and increasing microbial diversity—two things that have been severely depleted by conventional farming methods.
Check out these resources to learn more about how ruminants can benefit the planet:
Do you already eat bison and love it? If not, hopefully this has convinced you to try it!
We’re fortunate to offer our customers the best 100% grass-fed bison we’ve ever tried from our friends at Circle K Ranch in Michigan’s breathtaking Upper Peninsula. Read Orv Kabat’s statement on the “About Our Partners” page, and visit our online shop to see our selection of his bison meats!
**Cover picture borrowed from Circle K Ranch