Robert and I had the privilege of spending a morning with Bill Bouffioux, president of the B.C. Bison Producers Association. Bill and his wife Fayette run a herd of 250 buffalos (nickname for bison) along the Peace River hills between Fort St. John and Taylor, B.C. They made the switch from beef to bison in 1989, “when Grandma said, ‘No more!'” as Fayette put it.
The Bouffiouxs find that producing bison is far less work than beef cattle. They told us there’s no dehorning, castration, branding, or treating with hormones. There are no naval infections, no foot rot. No one gets up when the bison are calving. “Your handling is way, way less,” Bill says.
Despite this, the Canadian bison industry has seen a sharp drop in the herd size over the last years. The combination of high beef prices (before BSE), a big drought in Alberta, a fire in the Edmonton packing plant, and then BSE discouraged many producers. Since 2007 the herd in B.C. has dropped 70 per cent, to a total of 7250 bison on 53 ranches.
Now the Canadian Bison Association is calling for producers to increase their herds. Demand for buffalo meat has increased substantially and supply is no longer keeping up. Bill told us Ted Turner has a lot to do with that. Turner, the founder of CNN and America’s largest private landowner, operates Ted’s Montana Grill with George McKerrow. Turner just opened the 55th Ted’s Montana Grill in Boulder, Colorado on October 4th this year. Prominently featured on the chain restaurant’s menu is bison. Their bison burger is available prepared in 20 different ways, so you should never get tired of eating there! ( www.tedsmontanagrill.com)
There’s no denying that bison meat is good for you. Per 100 grams of cooked meat, beef has 9.28 grams of fat, pork
9.66, chicken 7.41 and bison only 2.42 grams (taken from the National Bison Association pamphlet: Why Buffalo). “Nutritionally you are getting more protein and nutrients with fewer calories and less fat. Buffalo is a dense meat that tends to satisfy you more while eating less,” states the pamphlet. Check this site out for all the health benefits of bison and some recipes to get you started using this healthy meat – www.bisoncentral.com/bison-cooking-health.php
Bison are produced as naturally as possible, without growth hormones or stimulants. The bison associations want to keep it that way. They grew their market on the basis of a wild, natural product. They don’t want to jeopardize that image.
“People are looking for a more natural, leaner meat,” says Bill. That’s a good thing for the bison industry. Now they just need to be able to supply the meat!