Did you know that demand for bison meat has been going up? Lean, vibrantly red and surprisingly light, bison is usually praised for its nutritional properties and natural sweet taste. As of late, however, this meat has also been on demand due to the bison’s’ sustainability, which paints a particularly compelling picture for consumers.
According to the American National Bison Association (a non-profit created in 1995 to inform the general public on bison and to ensure the latter’s preservation, production, and marketing), raising bison fits perfectly within the framework of regenerative agriculture, which “practices increase soil biodiversity and organic matter, leading to more resilient soils that can better withstand climate change impacts like flooding and drought.” As the Association adds, “healthy soils lead to stronger yields and nutrient-rich crops, without the need for synthetic fertilizers and/or pesticides,” and they “promote the growth and health of the animals that graze on those plants and grasses, while restoring important carbon-capturing grasslands in the process.”
Bison are nature’s perfect fit for this approach to holistic management, due to its natural grazing behavior. Because bison are undomesticated, they continue to interact with the environment as nature intended. Per the American National Bison Association, “today’s bison still graze in herds, moving across the land, and only briefly stopping by the watering holes, reducing the damaging impact of hooves along riparian areas. Domesticated species, meanwhile, have long lost much of that natural behavior, and will commonly stand and graze in one spot, or lounge around stream beds and ponds on hot days.” The Association has trademarked the slogan “Regenerative by Nature” to highlight bison’s innate sustainability.
Things have not always gone so well for the North American bison. Centuries of unrestricted hunting and diseases nearly decimated bison 125 years ago. Thankfully however, in recent decades, the conservation and restoration of the species have come to the forefront, forging a partnership among public, private, and tribal bison herds across the continent. Nowadays, there are approximately 400,000 bison in North America, and the aforementioned paradigm shift continues.
As I mentioned earlier, bison meat is fantastic from a nutritional standpoint. Nutrient dense and rich in Omega 3, bison is the better choice according to the USDA, with significantly less fat and calories, less cholesterol and higher amounts of protein, iron and vitamin B-12 than beef, pork, chicken and salmon. Part of the reason for bison’s high nutritional value is because of how they are raised. Bison are handled as little as possible. They are not domesticated and they spend their lives on grass. Oh, and did I mention that no antibiotics and growth hormones are given to bison?
I used bison recently in one of the foodie challenges I made a dish for on Instagram. I have been thoroughly enjoying being a part of these regular challenges/collaborations – I have been learning a lot, and keeping myself busy in the process 🙂 The challenge I used bison for was called Trompe L’oeil, or Trick of the Eye/ It’s Not what It Seems. While doing the research for it I realized the creations I had found online, such as hand-shaped cakes or panna cotta pretending to be an ashtray, were way beyond my level of expertise. The concept of truffle-looking meatballs seemed doable.
I purchased bison from Broken Wagon in Hobart IN – I was super excited to find a bison farm so close to me! I usually blend ground meat with lots of veggies (about 60% meat to 40% veggies) but in this case I decided to use meat with onion, garlic, and spices only, to make sure the look of the “truffles” would trick my Instagram audience.
No nuts or chocolate, of course 🙂
I air fried my meatballs/fake truffles for 10 minutes (bison is easy to overcook due to being so lean, therefore short cooking time is crucial), and covered them with with Suncore Foods’ organic beetroot powder. The natural lean sweetness of the bison coupled with that of the beetroot powder made for a super delicious and satisfying flavor combo.
I learned a lot while doing the research on bison, and I was pleased to read about the conservation efforts undertaken to preserve its majesty and innate sustainability. Raising and slaughtering bison involves strict control over the procedures used, so as to respect the natural beauty of this symbolic animal, America’s original red meat – isn’t this wonderful? Equally wonderful is the quality and flavor of the meat itself. Sweet, lean, light as a feather, bison meat is not gamey, but easy to eat and almost creamy in texture. If cooked properly, there’s no toughness or grittiness, but a softness similar to that of a sponge cake. There’s very little to sink your teeth into, literally – the texture is smooth and utterly satisfying. Meanwhile, the natural sweet flavor coats your mouth in the most pleasant of ways, keeping you in awe of its unique vibrancy and leanness. Delicious, nutritious, bold, and beautiful – bison is one of Mother Nature’s most precious and exciting gifts.
Have you ever had bison? How did you cook it? Let me know in the comments 🙂