Photo: Getty Images / Melanie Acevedo

Bison is making a comeback due to more people searching for lean, organic, and sustainable beef alternatives. Here's what you should know about America's original red meat.

Jaime Ritter
November 08, 2017

What's the Difference Between Bison and Buffalo?

Bison and buffalo are commonly confused as the same type of animal, but they’re actually two different members of the same family. The American Bison is native to North and South America and Europe, while buffalos are native to Africa and Asia. An easy way to spot the difference: North American bison have beards (awww).

It's estimated that 20 to 30 million bison once dominated the North American landscape, but habitat loss and unregulated shooting caused the population to dwindle to less than 1,000 by 1889. Today, around 500,000 bison are thriving thanks to ranchers' land restoration and breeding efforts. 

Though many still think of bison meat as "exotic", it's not as uncommon as you might think—about 7.5 million pounds of bison meat is sold each year in the U.S, and according to a recent study conducted by the National Bison Association, 60 percent of bison marketers reported an increase in demand. The bottom line? Bison meat is trending—and for good reason.

Is Bison Healthier Than Beef?

Here is the nutritional breakdown, according to the USDA.

Cooking Light

Because of federal laws and industry regulations, most bison meat sold in the U.S. is also raised without antibiotics and hormones. Environmentalists also say that grass-fed bison is a more sustainable meat choice than beef because bison keep the ecosystem in check through grazing and produce less greenhouse gas than cows. 

As you can see, bison meat has fewer calories, way less fat, and more protein than ground beef. It's also rich in iron, zinc, vitamin B12, omega 3-fats, and the antioxidant selenium.

How to Cook with Bison

Compared to beef, bison is lighter, coarser, and tastes slightly sweeter. It's not gamey, and it doesn't have much of an aftertaste. If you’ve never tried it before, ground bison is a good type of meat to start with—it’s lean and flavorful and easily substituted in recipes that call for ground beef. Bison chili is a popular dish for beginners, or you could get adventurous and try our Great Plains Burger, Bison Tri-Tip with Chimichurri, or Beer and Bison Burgers with Pub Cheese.

Want to find bison in your area? Most Whole Foods' stores carry bison meat, but you can also download the BisonFinder app or find a reputable online retailer here.

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