By Casey Seidenberg
There is a new meat in town, or at least in our house, one I had wholly neglected to cook during this drawn-out winter. Perhaps it is because our grill has been covered with snow much of the season, or because I haven’t made it to the farmers markets so often. Regardless, the meat is buffalo, better known as North American bison to the technical crowd, and it is back on our table.
According to the National Bison Association and a study done by North Dakota State University:
●Bison meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than beef, pork, skinless chicken and even some fish.
●Bison are not given chemicals, antibiotics or hormones. The bison farms across the country take this seriously and are diligent about preserving natural, humane and sustainable farming policies.
●Bison meat has more protein than beef. Protein is essential for energy, cells, tissues and hormones.
●Bison meat has significantly higher amounts of iron than beef. Iron aids in transferring oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies.
●Bison meat provides higher levels of vitamins and minerals and twice as much beta-carotene as meat from animals that have been entirely grain-fed.
●A Cornell University study shows that bison meat is very high in essential fatty acids, which prevent blood clots and maintain heart health.
Can a meat this healthful taste as good as an old faithful beef burger? Although a bison is a wild animal, bison meat does not taste like wild game. It more closely resembles conventional beef with a hint of sweetness.
Ground bison can be used interchangeably with ground beef in almost any recipe. Experiment with chili or lasagna. We have grilled bison steaks and more than our share of bison burgers. Bison meat cooks a bit faster than regular beef because it is lower in fat, so keep a watchful eye on that grill or oven.
My son just finished reading a book about Lewis and Clark and the history of the West. When I told him we were having bison burgers for dinner, he asked me whether bison are still an endangered species. Thankfully, they are no longer. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the Yellowstone Protection Act, making it illegal to kill buffalo in the mapped area of Yellowstone National Park so the dwindling population could reestablish. It worked. And the bison farms are not interfering with the growing population of wild buffalo.
I buy bison meat from Cibola Farms at the FRESHFARM Farmer’s Market at Dupont Circle. You can get it at many farmers markets across the Washington area (for The Post’s listing of local farmers markets, go to washingtonpost.com/food), on www.relayfoods.com, or possibly at your neighborhood grocer. Many butchers will order bison meat for you if you express an interest.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, May 1, 2014.