More and more meat lovers are choosing bison as their steak of choice rather than traditional beef in restaurants across the country. While a bison filet can cost as much as a strip steak, there are many reasons why people are making the switch.
Bison has fewer calories than beef. For example, a 6-ounce bison filet has fewer than 200 calories.
There’s also approximately ⅓ less fat in bison than there is in beef and unlike beef, bison is raised without being pumped full of steroids or other chemicals. Bison simply eat grass and forage.
Roger Gerber, chief executive officer of Blackwing Quality Meats, a United States distributor of bison meat, states aptly that, “The consumer today doesn’t trust the food industry. They can feel comfortable to know [bison] doesn’t have hormones, it doesn’t have antibiotics.” Moreover, bison also contains much less cholesterol than beef.
The food industry caught on early to consumers’ increasing demands for bison. Restaurants, as well as retailers such as Whole Food Market, Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and The Kroger Co. all carry bison.
Of course bison suppliers, including ranchers across the country, restaurants and retailers are taking note of the increased consumption of bison. More demand means more supply and ultimately means higher prices. In fact, prices for the healthy meat have about doubled over the last five years.
Yet because prices for other meat including beef and pork have also risen, consumers are not deterred from the higher price of bison.
Dave Carter, executive director of the Westminster, Colorado-based National Bison Association stated that, “People have kind of gotten used to the prices and are willing to pay a little bit more.”
The bison has been a conservation success story, with the United States population having increased to 500,000 from around 1,000 in the late 1800s.
But, just like its cousin the cow, the bison’s health is dependent on natural conditions such as droughts and extremely hot weather. United States ranchers reported an 18% decrease in bison in their herds between 2007 and 2012. As a result, even though the United States is the largest bison producer in the world, it has doubled its import of bison from Canada in the past year alone.
Since it takes about five years to increase bison herd sizes, it is likely that high prices for bison will continue to take hold in restaurants and retailers throughout the country as people increasingly switch to this delicious and healthy meat.