The Breakdown on Bison
Contrary to popular belief bison and buffalo are NOT the same thing. Bison are the largest indigenous animal native to North America whereas there are two types of buffalo, water buffalo and Cape buffalo, which are from Asia and Africa respectively. Bison meat has been popping up more and more at farmers markets and grocery stores across the country and is touted as the new red meat.
Per the National Bison Association, “Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, bison are classified as an exotic, or “non-amenable species,” and thus operate under some unique regulatory provisions. All bison marketed into the commercial marketplace must be processed in an FDA-approved facility. These facilities are required to comply with all FDA regulations, as well as with the FSIS regulations regarding sanitation. Bison producers/processors may also request “voluntary inspection” services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspections Service (FSIS) or from a an accredited state-inspection program which offers inspection “at least equal” to USDA.
How much bison is in US?
To date the number of bison in the United States is about 500,000 however, the number of “pure” and “wild” bison, free from cross breeding with cattle and/or semi-domesticated as a result of being raised on ranches as livestock brings the number down of around 35,000 and most of these are in wild conservation herds. Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of Wild Plains Bison at around 4,000. It is noted about 25% of all bison in the United States live in North and South Dakota.
In 2016, 61,300 bison were slaughtered in the US under state and federal inspection, where as 125,000 cattle are slaughtered DAILY for beef.
Bison is gaining popularity amongst consumers for is high protein and lean fat content, bison meat also has 40% more iron than beef.
2.42: grams of fat in a 100 gram serving of cooked bison.
10.15: grams of fat in a 100 gram serving of cooked beef.