Bison may sound like an exotic or unusual choice for meat, but it has actually been part of the American diet since the early 1800s. Bison offers some unique advantages both in terms of flavor and nutritional value as compared to traditional beef.
Bison are the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Europe. Although sometimes referred to as buffalo, American bison are not related to the water buffalo or African buffalo. Bison are actually more closely related to cows and goats. Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. They are herbivores, eating primarily simple foods like grasses and low-lying shrubbery. Although they were nearly eliminated from North America, bison have made a remarkable comeback as a lean and flavorful alternative to traditional beef.
American Bison: Back from the Brink
In the early 1800s, American bison were abundant on the plains of the central and western United States. The American bison was once considered the symbol of the Great Plains, with tens of millions roaming freely from Canada to Mexico. They grazed on the natural grasses and thrived due to very few natural predators. However, the arrival of American settlers introduced new threats to these massive herbivores.
Americans settling the West quickly took advantage of the abundant bison for meat and pelts. Due primarily to excessive hunting, the bison population quickly dwindled. It is estimated that 20-30 million bison were slaughtered during this time. Bison faced a simultaneous threat from formerly unfamiliar bovine diseases introduced by domestic cattle. In a matter of years, the aggressive hunting and presence of new diseases drastically reduced the bison population to only a few hundred. The once cherished symbol of the Great Plains was on the brink of extinction.
Fortunately, attempts to restore the American bison population have been very successful. Many ranchers now raise bison domestically, allowing them to graze on the same grassy plains the bison called home in the days before the west was settled. Today the population is estimated to be more than 500,000 in North America, including resurgences in some national parks and protected reserves.
Why You Should Eat Bison
The remarkable recovery of the American bison population is also attributable to an increase in demand for bison meat from savvy American consumers. Bison has some unique qualities that make it a highly preferred alternative to traditional cow beef. Bison is very tender, much like the most choice cuts of premium beef. Bison also has a very distinctive flavor that is both richer and sweeter than traditional beef. Traditional cows are selectively bred for marbling, or intramuscular fat. However, bison remains more closely linked genetically to its original wild lineage. As a result, bison meat is much leaner than traditional beef. It contains less fat overall and less saturated fat in particular with fewer calories. In fact, according to the USDA, 100 grams of raw bison contains 109 calories and 1.8 grams of fat, while the same amount of traditional beef contains 291 calories, and 24 grams of fat. Despite its lower fat content, bison also has more protein and is high in nutrients like zinc, niacin, iron, vitamin B6, and selenium. This makes it a great choice for health-conscious consumers who enjoy meat. Bison is also a terrific choice for those who follow the paleo diet.
Although bison may not be readily available at your typical grocery store, Christophe’s To Go offers premium bison meat in a variety of rotating meals. Stay up to date with our menu for any new bison meals and you’ll quickly understand why bison truly is the healthier, more flavorful alternative to traditional beef.