Bison Meat Becoming More Popular
Go to a bar or restaurant in the near future and you are likely to see a buffalo burger listed right next to a hamburger on the menu. Bison meat is becoming more popular with American diners due to its leanness, taste, and high protein content. People enjoy a bison burger for lunch or dinner and munching on buffalo jerky for a snack and those selling this meat are loving it.
In 2008, this industry in the U.S. experienced its best year financially in over a decade. Consumer demand for bison meat increased ten percent, making 2008 the fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth in this industry. As consumers realize how healthy and delicious buffalo meat is, ranchers are being provided the chance to acquire new customers. Once nearing extinction, this large animal is going strong and helping Americans eat healthier.
The American bison is also known as the American buffalo. Long ago, massive herds wandered the North American grasslands, roaming from far northwestern Canada, down to Mexico, and east to the western portion of the Appalachian Mountains. During the 19th century, slaughter and hunting nearly caused the American buffalo to go extinct. The population went from herds of 40 to 60 million to less than 1,000 American buffalo by the late 1800s.
The American buffalo population slowly began increasing after 1900, with most of the large creatures living on public lands in the Western United States. During the past 25 years, private ranchers have helped grow the population substantially. They have also brought bison meat to the table of many North American homes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that there are approximately 225,000 American buffalo in the U.S. As more people enjoy buffalo burgers, these ranchers receive economic incentive to increase herd size even more.
Bison meat is considered part of a healthy diet because it is low in fat content and has a high amount of iron and protein. Its cholesterol profile is excellent, making it a great alternative to fatty red meats. Since these animals are considered natural components of the ecosystem, ranching them is beneficial for our environment. This sustainable, natural meat also tastes great, as many amateur cooks and professional chefs have come to realize. The flavor of buffalo meat is something largely unmatched by other American food products.
Shoppers can find bison meat in the same cuts as other types of red meat. This includes ribeye, chuckroll, strip loin, top round, tenderloin, and top sirloin. Some people use bison trimmings to make delicious soup, while others prefer ground buffalo meat and use it to create mouthwatering burgers. These meat products are beginning to occupy more shelf space in the frozen food section of grocery stores.
As consumer demand for bison meat continues to rise, the relatively small industry will be challenged to maintain adequate supply levels. More ranchers are being encouraged to switch from cattle to American bison and established buffalo ranchers are lending them a hand. Someday, there may be more American buffalo farms than cattle farms in this country.