News / USA

Bison Stampede onto US Menus

But supply can't keep up with demand

There are about 500,000 bison in the United States today, not enough to keep up with demand for their meat.
There are about 500,000 bison in the United States today, not enough to keep up with demand for their meat.

Multimedia

Audio
Erika Celeste

On a chilly autumn day in Fort Wayne, Indiana, customers inside the Three Rivers Café and co-op are lining up for a tasty meal of bison meat.

Growing numbers of Americans are enjoying bison because it is considered more healthful than other meats. It is 40 percent higher in protein than beef, has more iron and potassium than pork, and is 97 percent fat free. It's being used in everything from sausages to spaghetti sauce, as well as burgers, steaks and stew.

In fact, it's so popular that Adalyn Parker, the meat buyer for the co-op, says there's a problem.

“In a week, we sell close to 20 packages, which is a pretty high number for a place like this. It's increasing, so that our supplier is out of stock until late November, because the demand is getting so high for it.”

Cans of bison meat on the shelves at the Three Rivers Café and co-op in Indiana.
Cans of bison meat on the shelves at the Three Rivers Café and co-op in Indiana.

Three Rivers isn't the only retailer facing a shortage. All across the country, groceries and restaurants are running out of bison.

That's a great problem to have, says Del-Vonna Feldbauer, who manages Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve, in Fremont, Indiana.“This was kind of a surprise for all of us. No one really thought we'd be out of meat.”

Over 30 million bison once roamed the North American plains, providing Native tribes and later, European settlers, with meat and hides. However, by the late 19th century, the animals had been hunted nearly to extinction. Over the past few decades their numbers have rebounded, in large part due to conservation and a savvy food marketing campaign.

John Trippy, a retired physician who owns the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve, believes the bison industry owes much of its success to the National Bison Association's 2001 advertising campaign to promote the meat.

John Trippy, owner of the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve, with one of his animals.
John Trippy, owner of the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve, with one of his animals.

“They started doing research on the nutritional value and taste and they got chefs involved," Trippy says. "That awareness is really what kicked off the public's interest in ‘Oh my gosh, we have an alternative to beef or to pork or to chicken.’ In New York City, they were calling it the sweet meat because it has a sweet taste to it. It's almost addictive, honestly, after you start eating it.”  

Bison is about twice as expensive as other meats. Still, top producers say they could easily increase sales by 30 percent, if they had the meat to sell.

A key reason supply for bison lags behind demand is because it takes bison a full year longer to have offspring than cattle. It also those bison calves a full year longer than young cattle to gain enough weight to be ready for market. In addition, many ranchers are finding it more profitable to hold on to heifers for breeding rather than slaughter.  

And there simply aren't enough bison ranches to compete head-to-head with cattle as an alternative source of meat.  

“Today we have about 500,000 bison in the country," says Trippy. "We slaughter 250,000 cattle every day, so it's a little, minute part of the market.”   

The challenge now is to keep up with the demand, so they can hold onto their small-but-growing share of the market.

The National Bison Association has launched a new campaign which encourages ranchers to increase their bison herds. The group also hopes to persuade some cattlemen to switch to bison, meeting with them to point out that the animals are cheaper to feed and require almost no maintenance.

If the recruitment effort is as successful as the 2001 marketing campaign, America's bison supply could be back on track by 2014.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs