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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs