Bison meat has been gaining popularity the past few years, not just here in America but worldwide. Many foodies have extolled its virtues; restaurants have been starting to add it to their menus. But does it live up to the hype? Or is just one of those exotic food fads? Is it even worth the price?
Hence, for the uninitiated, here are some things you should know about this kind of meat:
- It’s a healthier alternative to beef.
One of the biggest reasons for the current popularity of bison meat is its nutritional value. While it still tastes like a lighter version of beef, bison meat is much leaner. That’s what makes it perfect for those who are trying to eat a healthy diet—bison meat offers a sizeable amount of protein and nutrients without the same amount of fat.In fact, the National Bison Association says that every 3.5 ounces of bison meat only has 2.4 grams of fat and 143 calories. That’s because when raising bison, they aren’t fattened up; compared to cattle that’s bred for more fat and marbling. This means a significant difference in the diet of bison. Unlike cows that have a diet composed of grain-based processed feed, most bison are still grass fed.
It’s also illegal to use growth hormones on bison; these hormones have been linked to early onset puberty and some cancers. And while the use of antibiotics is legal for bison, very few farmers actually use them on their stock. Hence, most bison are naturally grown, compared to cattle that’s pumped with all these chemicals before slaughter.
- It can be friendlier to the environment.
The same reasons that make bison meat a healthier option also make raising them friendlier to the environment. After all, conventional methods of raising cattle—such as setting up feedlots—have been blamed for worsening pollution. Compare that to most bison, which are still grass-fed. As bison graze on the grass, they prevent these plants from overgrowing and upsetting the ecological balance of a certain area.
- It’s not hard to cook.
Due to its similarities with beef, bison meat can be cooked in a similar manner. Bison steaks or chops can be grilled or broiled; slow cooking is also suitable. Ground bison meat can be also made into patties. If you’re wary about simply substituting bison for beef, you can simply buy cookbooks that focus on this kind of meat. Better yet, you can search online for free recipes.Take, for example, the Baked Bison Meatballs from Tomas Test Kitchen. Like most meatball recipes, this is pretty simple—you only need to mix most of the ingredients with the bison meat in a bowl for a few minutes. Then stick it in the oven for 20 minutes and you’re done!
This recipe also makes up for bison meat’s leaner taste by adding small amounts of intense spices, such as sambal oelek, a type of Indonesian chili paste. Hence, just keep this in mind when you’re substituting bison for beef—more flavor means more fun.
- It’s not that hard to find, either.
A decade ago, bison was considered an exotic food available in only a few farmers’ markets and some natural food stores. However, it’s starting to become popular, with several supermarkets starting to carry it on their shelves. While it’s still not as common as chicken or beef, it shouldn’t be that hard to find.And if you don’t want to cook, no worries. There are nowbison-themed restaurants sprouting all over the country, such as Ted’s Montana Grill, with 44 locations in 16 states. The Counter, a burger chain with branches from New York to California and even Hawaii, also offers bison on their menu.
- There’s kosher and bison meat available.
Don’t worry if you have dietary restrictions because of your religion. Kosher and halal versions of bison meat exist, though admittedly only a select number of distributors offer it.
- It’s America’s original red meat.
If you look back at American history, the “exoticness” of bison meat is only a recent phenomenon. After all, many of this country’s original settlers consumed this meat, before cattle was imported and breeding cows became more widespread. In fact, in the 19th century, wild bison became nearly extinct due to hunting and ailments contracted from imported cattle.That said, don’t worry about buying and consuming bison meat. Today, most commercially available bison meat come from farms and won’t endanger the remaining bison population. Hence, in a way, eating bison meat is the continuation of a culinary tradition from our forefathers.
With these reasons, bison meat is surely worth a try. So the next time you come across this kind of meat at the supermarket or see it on the menu of a restaurant, don’t skip it!