What if you could eat delicious, meaty burgers, steaks and tacos without consuming all the saturated fat, calories and chemicals known to be in red meat?
Bison (the proper name for the American Buffalo) provide a great, healthy and sweet source of meat, boasting numerous benefits to you and the environment. If you adopt bison as your protein source, you not only get that meaty flavor you crave, but also a meal that’s low in fat, highly nutritious and protein-packed.
Still not convinced? Here are ten major benefits to eating bison meat:
High in protein, low in fat
One-hundred grams of uncooked bison contains approximately 28 percent less fat and 17 percent less calories than a piece of beef, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The saturated fat content of bison is also lower in bison meat: 2.97 grams versus 4.058 grams, while the protein content is virtually the same.
Bison are pasture raised and grass-fed more often than not (see benefit #7). Because of this, according Berkeley Wellness, bison meat contains a high percentage of omega 3s, which, among other benefits, is vital to human heart function.
Bison has a higher iron content than other meats—which is a mineral that, if lacking, can cause severe fatigue in humans. Bison has about 2.78 milligrams of iron per 100 uncooked grams, according to the USDA. In fact, Readers' Digest magazine listed bison as superfood for women, suggesting they eat the meat because of its high iron to calorie ratio.
Bison contains 1.94 micrograms of vitamin b-12, 5.32 milligrams of niacin and large amounts of other vital nutrients like riboflavin and zinc (see the USDA report for exact measurements). The proportion of protein, fat, mineral, vitamin and fatty acids to its caloric value is why bison is considered the lean and healthy choice.
Sweet and tender taste
Health benefits aside, the taste of Bison meat is impeccable. People say a good cut of bison is more tender, even sweeter, than beef—and satisfies both those who crave a hearty slice of bacon on their hamburger and those that prefer a more delicate piece of meat.
Utilizing bison meat in your kitchen opens up a range of cooking possibilities that will have a sweeter, lighter taste than the beef or chicken variations. Try bison wonton tacos, smoky bison stuffed spaghetti squash, or reinvent the classic burger using bison meat. The possibilities are endless.
Humanely raised and slaughtered
Farmed bison spend their days roaming free in grasslands—eating what they’ve been evolved to eat with little to no time in feedlots. They’re considered an undomesticated species and are encouraged to exercise their natural behavior (keeping a pecking order, for example). This humane treatment of the animal decreases their stress and increases the quality of the meat. On that note—
Antibiotics and growth hormones are (almost) never given to bison
Because bison are undomesticated and their care is very hands-off, they are never administered growth stimulants. They are only given antibiotics when they’re actually sick, which is a major benefit compared to beef, which can be preemptively and routinely pumped with antibiotics.
Bison are known as keystone species, that is they play a key role in protecting, preserving and defining their environment. Bison grazing patterns and habits (bison roll and create dips known as wallows) help promote plant photosynthesis and biodiversity, while also helping to create a space for other prairie animals to flourish.
Their bovine counterparts, cattle, did not ecologically adapt to the grassland environment and are a lot harder on the land. Not to mention the environmental impacts of industrialized beef production.
Consuming bison helps conserve bison
Before European settlement, over 6-million bison roamed North America. In the 1800s their numbers decreased dramatically due to overhunting and the clearing of their prairie habitat. Bison have had a comeback since then, which, in part, can be credited to the profitization of raising bison (i.e. people buying bison meat and products). By continuing to purchase and eat bison meat, people are putting money toward the conservation of the keystone species.
While serving bison burgers at the next family gathering might be nerve wracking, give it a try. You might be surprised that a meat that’s better for you and the environment can taste so good.