24 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • oCTober 2015
alternative protein love me tender
ourteen years ago, when I came on board, my main job was to persuade people
to take a taste of the meat,” says Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison
Such is the popularity of bison, or, as it is more commonly called, buffalo, that since 2012, the
first Saturday of November has been designated National Bison Day. In addition, with its Vote Bison
campaign, the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, is spearheading a movement to have bison
declared the nation’s national mammal.
where the buffalo roam
The National Bison Association represents roughly a hundred bison producers throughout the
nation and in every state, but with most on the plains of Colorado, South Dakota and Oklahoma.
They range from Ted Turner’s 14 ranches housing more than 55,000 animals to small 30-bison herds
that raise animals primarily for food trucks. According to Carter, the demand for bison exceeds the
supply, with almost 44% of bison producers reporting that they cannot fill 20% of their customers’
orders, and another 60% short more than 50%.
There’s a good reason for this. As consumers become more concerned about diet, health and
sustainability, but still seek the mouthfeel and taste of meat, bison is the logical choice. Bison
contains 2. 42 grams of fat, 143 calories and 82 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of cooked
meat. Comparatively, beef contains 9. 28 grams of fat, 211 calories and 86 milligrams of cholesterol.
Bison represents, as well, the antithesis of industrial agriculture, which is increasingly under
the scrutiny of consumers. Unlike the majority of mass-produced beef, bison graze on grass,
sometimes supplemented with grass hay in the winter, and are never given growth hormones
or prophylactic antibiotics. According to Carter, the animal “does not lend itself to large-scale
farming techniques, and we’re very happy about that.”
Once, an estimated 30-40 million bison roamed three plains, but by the late 1800s, there were
fewer than a thousand. They were slaughtered by workers building railroads, displaced by Western
settlers and killed for their hides, with a single firm in St. Louis trading more than 250,000 bison
hides in 1871 alone. It wasn’t until Teddy Roosevelt, an avid conservationist, joined with the Bronx
Zoo to spearhead a breeding program in the early 1900s that the plains began to be repopulated.
As chefs and consumers pay increasing
attention to diet, health and sustainability,
bison is a tender, tasty favorite. by jaN GreeNberG
opposite, clockwise froM top:
1) the bison burger at snap kitchen,
topped with an egg, comes with sweet
potato fries and housemade pickles
and sriracha. 2) snap kitchen’s bison/
3) buffalo rib-eye at
firelake Grill house & Cocktail bar.
love me tender