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Bison meat a nutritional, flavorful protein choice

Bison meat a nutritional, flavorful protein choice

Bison Meat

A lone bison stands in a pasture on Bison Bluff Farms in Cobden, Ill.

Bison meat may cost more than beef, but it’s worth it, many believe.

The North American herd has emerged from near extinction to become a highly valued source of protein. The success of Ted’s Montana Grill, co-founded by business mogul Ted Turner, attests to that. But one doesn’t need to travel to the West to enjoy the product.

Small bison producers are scattered throughout the country, offering steaks, ground meat and other tasty entrees. Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, listed the three main attributes: taste, nutritional profile and a fascinating backstory.

“It’s got delicious taste, like beef but just a little sweeter,” he said. “It’s low in fat and high in protein and iron. And we have a great story to tell about how the animal evolved in concert with the ecosystems of America.”

The herd was nearly wiped out in the late 1800s but has come back in a big way. Consumers appreciate the flavor as well as the way the animals are raised, mostly on pasture and with a hands-off approach that mimics how they live in the wild.

“People are concerned about what they eat and how it helps the health of the planet,” Carter said. “Also, it tastes good. Bison sits right in the sweet spot of those things.”

Native Americans, who used the animals for food, clothing and housing, preferred bison meat to the beef cattle developed by European settlers. For good reason, say many who believe bison is superior.

The meat is very lean compared to beef and pork. A 3.5-ounce serving has only 2.42 grams of fat, according to the USDA. Because bison is lean, it will cook more quickly. The association recommends that ground meat be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. Roasts and steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare and 160 degrees for medium.

Since it is a lean meat, bison steaks appear redder than beef cuts and require a shorter cooking time — about a third less.

Bison roasts should be cooked in a 275 degree oven to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. When oven broiling, the broiler rack should be moved away from the heat about a notch lower than its position when beef steaks are broiled. It is not recommended to cook bison meat past medium.

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Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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