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.


    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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.