When Katie tasted her sister-in-law’s stew, she was surprised at how appealing the concoction tasted. She was even more surprised to find out the chunks of meat in it weren’t beef. Her sister-in-law took food pretty seriously and soon started to explain the health benefits of bison.
Isn’t Bison a Really Obscure Meat?
It’s been growing in popularity for at least three years, according to mezediet.com, and we have media mogul Ted Turner to thank for it. His Montana Grill features bison on its menu.
Is a bison the same as a buffalo? Not really. However, the bison and the buffalo are related. The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that the so-called American buffalo isn’t a true buffalo. Bison is its scientific name.
Around 150,000 bison live in the United States. While those that formed a staple of Native American diet in the nineteenth century were on the tough side, ranchers today custom feed bison so that their meat will be as tender as beef. Although 125,000 cattle are slaughtered each day, the number of bison is around 20,000.
According to the USDA, bison fall under voluntary inspection laws. Businesses pay an hourly rate to for inspections.
But How Healthy is It?
Bison is a good source of zinc, iron, niacin, Vitamin B6, phosphorus and selenium. A three-ounce serving – slightly smaller than the back of your hand – is packed with protein. Mezediet.com reports that bison is one of the leanest meats you can buy. While a chicken breast has 140 calories and 3 grams of fat in a 3-ounce serving, bison has just 122 calories and 2 grams of fat.
According to The National Bison Association (NBA) , bison is naturally flavorful. It tastes much like fine beef but is a little sweeter and richer. It’s relatively tender and can be prepared much the same way as beef is.
Ranchers consider bison very healthy animals because they’re handled as infrequently as possible. They live on grass and spend little time in a feedlot. The NBA says bison aren’t subjected to questionable drugs, hormones or chemicals.
The association adds that research from North Dakota State University indicates that bison meat is dense in nutrients due to the relative proportion of protein, minerals, fats and fatty acids in its calories. A 3.5-ounce service contains 3.42 mg of iron, versus 2.72 for choice beef, 2.99 for select beef, 1.10 for pork, 1.21 for skinless chicken and 0.55 for sockeye salmon. At 82 mg of cholesterol, it’s 4 mg lower than any of those food sources.
How Do You Prepare Bison?
Less-tender cuts are at their best when paired with vegetables in stews or casseroles. Fans also prepare bison roasts, steaks and chops. The potential uses are only limited by the creativity of the cook.
It’s important not to overcook bison meat. The best results occur at 325 degrees F and with longer cooking times. Braising or another moist method is ideal for roasts and steaks. Thin slices can be broiled or pan fried.
Ground bison should be cooked to 160 degrees F for safety. The safe temperatures for roasts, steaks and chops are 145 degrees F (medium rate), 160 degrees (medium) or 170 degrees (well done). In order to realize the maximum health benefits of bison, diners should eat or freeze the meat within three or four days after preparation.
U.S. Department of Agriculture site
The National Bison Association (NBA) site