I first worked with Bison meat about twelve years ago at a small tapas-style restaurant in Halifax. We served it as a part of a trio of sliders, and I think I made Bison poutine as a special there too. At that time, I thought Bison was delicious but saw it as more of a novelty than a staple protein. Fast-forward four or five years, I am working in Montreal, and my chef has no interest in common ingredients.
So, rather than serving beef, Bison became our go-to red meat. Not long after that, when I went to work in the Yukon, we served a Bison Short Rib that was to die for. What I realized from my experience with Bison in Montreal and the Yukon, was that it was not a novelty at all. Bison is a versatile, lean red meat that just as easily fits on the dining table at home as it does on the menus of high-end restaurants.
The only problem I’ve had cooking Bison at home has been its availability. For a long time, it could only be bought through restaurant suppliers, or on occasion at specialty grocers. Luckily, it is now more widely available.
You’ve probably seen it at your local Sobeys or Foodland. If you have seen at the store, you may have considered buying it, but you just weren’t sure. Well, today, I’m going to give you five reasons why you should buy bison and why you will be happy that you did.
The new Canadian Food Guide recommends Bison as a lean protein right up there with skinless chicken breast and wild game meats, and for a good reason. 100g of lean Bison has only 2.42g of fat compared to 8.09g of fat in the same amount of lean beef, and 9.66g of fat in the same amount of lean pork.
In that same 100g of Bison, there is only 82mg of cholesterol compared to 86mg in the same amount of lean beef, pork and chicken. If keeping it lean and clean is your aim, Bison is one of the best choices that you can make. Figures taken from The Canadian Bison Association Website.
Lots of the Good Stuff
On top of being lean and low in cholesterol, Bison is high in Iron (3.42mg per 100g lean meat compared to 2.99mg – beef, 1.1mg – pork, 0.6mg – chicken, and .34mg -salmon), vitamin B12, B6, Niacin, and Zinc.
The high iron levels make Bison an excellent choice for both men and women suffering from Anemia. In 2018 Thehealthy.com (Part of Reader’s Digest) listed Bison as one of the13 Super-foods Every Healthy Woman Needs in Her Diet because women are more prone to anemia, and Bison offers a high iron, low-fat option to help combat this issue.
Canadian Bison are sustainably produced and contribute to the growth and bio-diversity of the land rather than taking away from it. Because almost all of a Bison’s nutritional needs can be met by grazing on wild perennial grasses that grow naturally in Canada, there is no need to load up the soil with chemical fertilizers. These natural grasslands would otherwise be used for monoculture farming, such as grain or soybeans. Some monoculture farms have even been converted to more bio-diverse Bison grazing lands.
It takes between four to sixteen hectares to raise a Bison cow and her baby, which is quite a bit of grazing land. However, the Bison lives on, eats, and fertilizes these vast tracts of grasslands. Compare that to other commercial farming practices that keep animals in small spaces and grow their feed on monoculture farms.
These monoculture growing operations require large volumes of land and chemical fertilizers to sustain them. Of course, the feed must also be transported from the farm to the animals.
One final point is that Bison are raised without growth stimulants or hormones and are not regularly fed antibiotics.
- Taken from the Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food webpage on Bison
- Taken from the Canadian Bison Association
It is delicious
If you like meat, you will like Bison. People describe the flavour of Bison meat as similar to beef but richer and slightly sweet. However, because Bison is so lean, it is important not to overcook it. It’s best that Bison not be cooked any more than medium. Of course, if you are using ground Bison, this is not an issue.
Some people may be concerned that Bison will have a gamey flavour similar to venison, I’ve never found this to the case. In my experience, Bison tastes like the best quality beef I’ve ever had. I find that Bison meat is more dense, rich, flavorful, and filling than beef.
You Already Know What To Do With It
You may be thinking to yourself, “This all sounds great, but what do I do with it?”. That’s a good question. But here’s the thing, you already know what to do with it. Let me ask you something; Have you ever cooked beef? If you said yes, that is your answer. You can cook the same recipes you’ve always used; just use Bison as the protein. It’s that simple.
Conclusion – Bison, the Meat of the Future.
I’ve worked with Bison in restaurants for over a decade, I’ve served it at private dinners, I’ve cooked it at home, and I have always enjoyed it. One thing that has struck over all these years is that Bison should be more popular than it is, but I think it is about to be.
I believe that in the coming years, as people search more and more for sustainable foods, and leaner proteins, Bison will continue to grow in popularity. There is a trend that is gaining momentum, and with good reason, to eat higher quality meat in smaller portions. Due to its caloric density, and undeniable quality, Bison, is the perfect meat for this future dietary norm. If you have seen Bison at the grocery store, thought about it, but ultimately walked by it because you didn’t know what to do with it or how it would taste, I hope that I’ve given you a reason to take a second look. I hope that you try it because I am confident that when you do, you’ll be happy that you did.