Prior to 1600, an estimated 30-60 million bison roamed North America. Before the turn of the 20th century, the estimate dropped to below 1,000. But the strong and majestic animal now numbers roughly 400,000 and the bison business is booming. Ranchers, processors, chefs, environmentalists, diners and retail shoppers have all contributed to the bison’s resurgence in its native land, but consumers want more.
In today’s health-conscious food landscape, bison meat provides the taste quality of red meat with a desirable nutrition profile.
For health-conscious consumers, bison is a source of red meat with significantly less calories and fat content than beef.
Another on-trend attribute of bison is that its lifestyle lends itself to sustainability.
Bison prefer to live outdoors year-round, alleviating the need for any buildings to provide shelter or other confinement issues. Bison do well eating most of the grasses in the US, cutting down or eliminating costs associated with commercial feed. Consequently, bison add benefits to the environment. Along with this, US consumers appreciate the more natural processes used by ranchers to raise Bison.
“It’s illegal to use growth hormones in bison. It’s illegal to use antibiotics for growth purposes in bison,” says Dave Carter, executive director for the National Bison Association in Westminster, Colorado. “When you talk about sustainable food, what’s more sustainable than the animal that’s been a part of this ecosystem for thousands of years?”
Carter believes the consumer demand will continue to grow due to a sweet spot within three strong trends happening in food — the healthy diet, natural and sustainable food, and consumers looking for adventurous flavor profiles.