Bison's Health Benefits
By Karen Ehrens, RD
Eating a diet low in total and saturated fat is one strategy for helping lower the risk of many chronic conditions including heart disease, obesity and some cancers. For those who wish to enjoy red meat while watching their fat and saturated fat intake, bison is a practical and versatile option.
A 3-ounce bison rib eye steak has 150 calories and 5 grams of total fat—within recommended levels based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is 67 grams total fat (30 percent of energy) and 22 grams saturated fat (10 percent of energy). This same serving of bison is relatively low in cholesterol (67 mg), is an excellent source of zinc and a good source of iron and vitamin B12. Reflecting the mineral content of the soil on which they graze, range-fed bison contain up to five times more selenium than grain-fed bison. Grass-fed bison are also slightly lower in total fat, cholesterol and calories. The meat of grass-fed bison has a higher percentage of polyunsaturated fat and linolenic (omega-3) fatty acids than grain-fed bison.
Cooking With Bison
By Nicole Anziani, MS, RD, CDN, CLC
With a sweeter, richer flavor than beef, bison also has a deeper color because of the absence of marbling. Grass-fed bison has yellow-colored fat due to higher beta-carotene content than grain-fed bison, whose adipose appears white.
Bison can be found in farmers’ markets, local supermarkets or specialty stores. Many online companies offer mail-order services. Use or freeze ground raw bison within two days, or three to five days for large cuts. Uncooked ground bison can be frozen up to four months and large cuts up to nine months. Since it is leaner than other red meat, bison easily can be overcooked. Braising or stewing work best with large, less tender cuts such as the brisket. Broiling, grilling and pan-frying are ideal for thinner cuts, including sirloin tip and inside round steaks. Enjoy it in hamburgers, chilies, meatballs, pasta sauces, fajitas, nachos and stroganoff. Bison can also be substituted for venison in most dishes.
Using Bison in Food Service
By Chef J. Hugh McEvoy, CRC, CEC, Cd.R
Although roaming the North American Plains for hundreds of years, bison is a relative newcomer to dinner tables in the United States. Thanks to a healthy nutrient profile and rich flavor, the meat has gained a great deal of acceptance and one can now get a “bison burger” in almost any large city in America. It fares well in classic comfort foods like Italian meatballs or salisbury steak. Chefs are also taking bison into the realm of appetizers with bison carpaccio and pâté, using it in pasta dishes in addition to creating new flavorings for bison ribs, roasts and tenderloin. And the lower fat keeps those sauces looking and tasting great.
The bison ranching industry has adopted the names, numbers and standards for beef by both the U.S. and the Canadian regulatory bodies, so you can pick familiar cuts of meat such as rib eye, tenderloin, top sirloin butt steak, back ribs, stew meat, flank steak, brisket and ground. Purchase bison from reputable foodservice suppliers and refrigerate or freeze at once. Plan ahead and defrost frozen bison meat in the refrigerator. If not being served immediately, cool bison stews and soups quickly by ladling into shallow pans and refrigerating.