November 08, 2006
Delicious and Healthy
Bison Finds It's Way into the Spotlight
Almost as prevalent in the American dining scene as the golden arches of McDonalds is the "low-carb" section found in many of today's restaurant menus. And while many of the popular food choices associated with such selections contain meat, one particular type of meat has largely been overlooked. Unfortunately for unaware diners, it happens to be the healthiest selection of meat available. What is it? Bison.
According to research conducted by Dr. M. Marchello at North Dakota State University, bison meat has among the lowest fat content and highest nutrient density of any type of meat available. That's good news for businesses like Five Herds Trading Co. (http://fiveherds.com), who sells range-raised, grass-fed bison on their Web site.
"Range-raised, grass-fed bison meat is incredibly healthy, in large part because the bison graze in their natural habitats," said company spokesperson Anne Nelson. "As a result of their free-roaming lives, bison meat is very lean."
Experts agree that bison require special considerations not found in other areas of animal handling. The National Bison Association (NBA) reports that the animals respond best to low-pressure, low stress conditions. The NBA also states that fencing requirements differ for bison because of the animal's ability to jump to a height of six feet.
While the commercial bison business began in the late 1960s, the industry saw very little momentum until the late 1980s. The reason for increased demand? Chefs began to include bison meat into their menus for the flavor it provided.
"Bison meat is similar to a very fine cut of beef," states Forrest Waldo, certified executive chef for Five Herds. "The only difference is that it's slightly sweeter. And because it's so lean it's important to cook bison at a slightly lower temperature and for less time than beef."
After an industry-wide slump in the late 1990s, business started a turn-around in 2003 that has continued through today. Factors contributing to increased demand have been said to include a rising popularity in low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets, active promotion of bison as a gourmet food, and an increase in use by restaurants. Many supermarkets across the nation are now carrying bison in the form of steaks, roasts, burgers, and hotdogs.
Promoters of bison meat have more to hail than taste; the method of raising the animal makes it naturally hormone-free. The NBA went so far as to pass a resolution opposing the use of questionable drugs, chemicals, or hormones in the raising of bison. It's a practice that Five Herds follows when raising and selecting their animals, says Nelson.
"Our bison spend their lives in the open air eating grass. This natural way of raising bison is more costly to the rancher, but it is better for the bison and for the environment," adds Nelson. "Our customers tell us they buy our bison not only for the healthful benefits, but also because they've discovered it's as versatile as beef and is a welcome change from their normal dining experience."