American Bison vs Cattle

bison.jpgHow much consideration do you think the average american puts into purchasing meat from the store? The current selection at the grocery store could be overwhelming with all the different kinds of beef cuts available. The exotic meat of an American bison might seem strange to most but it is the nations “original” red meat, for beef cattle are not native to North America but introduced by Spanish and English settlers.

These amazing animals are a staple of the west and used to roam the land in massive herds, now they are confined to private ranches and the only free roaming herd still around is located in Yellowstone National Park. The majestic creature almost disappeared from the American landscape as the European settle pushed west eliminating the herds from the western plains.

The bison that we see in grocery stores are ranch raised and are grass-fed, usually  free to roam the lands of the ranch until time to harvest.  This method of free grazing bison helps balance the ecosystem by keeping the grasslands in check and not over growing. Their waste returns the need nutrients back to the soil and the cycle continues.  Bison are aware of their surroundings and do not destroy grassland like cattle do, instead the bisons sort of glide over the range not destroying wildflowers or grasses that they won’t eat.

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While cattle have a much broader appetite for forbs (broad-leave plants), which will lead to a decline in the diversity of the grazing prairies.  Bison seem to not stay in the same location from day to day but like to cover a lot of ground in their herds picking and choosing grasses of their liking, so not leaving their mark on an area for an extended period of time.

Regulation standards do not allow for ranchers to use any hormones, antibiotics, or any chemicals on bison, unlike cattle which are pumped full of them.  Thus you will find that most bison meat will be organic.  Bison meat contains less fat and calories, and also has has more nutrients that we need in large amount such as iron, B-12, and protein.

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For those of us who have readily access to local bison ranches, it should at least be of consideration when choosing between american bison and cattle. For many are probably unaware that bison can be implemented as a substitute for beef and as a much healthier alternative.

https://www.westernwatersheds.org/gw-cattle-v-bison

http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgiarticle=1456&context=greatplainsreserch

 

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “American Bison vs Cattle

  1. corimccaffrey

    Do you think that from the growing number of bison who are held and raised on ranches (and kept from their normal patterns of life “Bison seem to not stay in the same location from day to day but like to cover a lot of ground in their herds picking and choosing grasses of their liking, so not leaving their make on an area for an extended period of time”) that their behavior will evolve into one other than that? Perhaps their species will evolve into one that behaves more like cows since ranches restrict this migration and eating pattern that they seem to display in the wild… What are your thoughts on this?

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    • blakecurran1

      Great Question corimccaffrey!
      With an estimated number of 325 wild bison left in the United States (1884) and the native population to an estimated 30 to 60 million bison living in North America during 1500’s. This species was on the brink of extinction. I feel that it is better to have them be increasing in population. Yes, bison that live on ranches will be limited in there migration pattern, but not all bison engage in this type of migration. These bison are called resident herds. Their grazing patterns may explain why bison raised on ranches have less of an impact on the environment. Since many of these bison are raised on the ranch from birth they do not need to migrate because they have the winter and summer ranges that provide the sufficient grazing fields that is natural for them. Unlike cattle that are not native to these grass lands and not environmental sustainable.

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  2. amyquandt

    You briefly touch on how cattle and bison eat different grasses and cattle are more destructive. Could you talk more about how bison grazing promotes grass growth and plant diversity? What plants or parts of plants do they mostly eat?

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    • blakecurran1

      Bison are always on the move and don’t like to be in area for to long because of predators. They will graze an area pretty intensely but for a short period of time, they only eat grasses and not the root system leaving them to grow back. They will graze the grasses that are over grown and are choking new plants and grasses from growing thus promoting a diverse ecosystem. Prairies need these natural disturbances to keep the ecosystem in check and not letting one species choke out the rest. Bison when they walk will press new seed that have fallen into the ground creating a imprint that will fill with water, if it rains, the new seedling will grow and the cycle continues.

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