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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid