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Saturday, August 20, 2016

40 Facts About our New National Mammal – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Bison | Plus a Few Adorable Pictures.


40 things you might not know about the American Bison, our new national mammal

I was first introduced to the mighty American Bison somewhere around second grade in my elementary school classroom as groups of us kids gathered around the couple (very old-fashioned) Macintosh computers in our classroom in order to play our favorite floppy disk game "The Oregon Trail".

Hunting was everyone's favorite part of this game, and the bison was the prize you always aspired to as it was the biggest and easiest target, yielding your trail party the most food. During the middle of the game, those 200 lbs. the hunting party was able to take to the wagon could be critical in continuing game play.

I learned only a few things about the great American Bison during those game sessions: that the bison always weighed over 2000 lbs. and that these big lumbering beasts made easy targets for hungry hunters. (Turns out both of those aren't really true... but we'll get to that!)

But, you may have heard the news recently that Congress decided to name the Bison our National Mammal, honoring it with a status similar to the Bald Eagle.

So, I thought I would take some time to put together a post to properly introduce you to this awesome animal! Below, find 50 facts about the American Bison. I'll bet you find some you didn't already know!

1. Buffalo? Bison? What are we talking about?

There's sometimes a little confusion between "bison" and "buffalo". Here's the deal, the American Bison is the proper name for the animal that, here in the U.S.A., we sometimes refer to as "buffalo". The word "buffalo" is ingrained into our culture so much so that both are acceptable ways to refer to the bison. It's not like we're going to re-name him "Bison Bill".

On the left is a photo of a Water Buffalo (source: Wikipedia). On the right is a photo of an American Bison Bull (source: NebraskaBison.com)

But technically, American Bison are not buffalo. Buffalo are a species of animal not even indigenous to North America. Instead, they are found in Africa, Europe and Asia: for instance, the Water Buffalo and Asia. These are a completely separate species from Bison and in a side by side comparison, look quite different as well.

2. You can find bison in all 50 states – even Hawaii.

Bison are represented throughout the United States on private ranches and public farms. But a lot of people don't realize that there are actually farms throughout the entire country, not just in the West.

3. But South Dakota has the most.

As you may imagine, the plains are where most of the bison currently live. You'll find large populations of bison in states like Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Montana, however, South Dakota currently boasts the most bison of any other state.

4. The National Bison Association estimates there are an estimated 500,000 bison in North America.

Canada is home to large populations of bison and the estimated numbers based on census data and National Bison Association numbers is 500,000.

5. But there used to be literally millions.

Before Westward Expansion, tens of millions of bison roamed the Great Plains. The bison were killed to near extinction, however, mainly as an attempt to weaken the Native American tribes that relied on the bison for so much of their daily lives.

6. Conservation efforts led by Teddy Roosevelt prevented the extinction of the American Bison.

By 1889 only 1,000 bison remained. Luckily, there were some Americans who made an effort to save this species. William T. Hornaday and Theodore Roosevelt founding the American Bison Society in 1905 to help save bison from extinction and raise public awareness about the animal.

7. According to the 2012 USDA Census information, there were 2,564 Bison Farms in the United States.

This is of course a far cry from millions free-roaming the plains (which let's face it, isn't really feasible with the society we've established.) However, bison herds are thriving and growing. Many private bison farms are in fact large open ranges where the fences don't much bother the bison anyway. They have plenty of room for roaming and grazing and the farmers who raise them care about the quality of life for their herds.

8. Bison live on public and private lands. 


Yellowstone National Park has the largest free roaming bison population and is reportedly the only place where bison have continuously lived since pre-historic times. The Yellowstone herd numbers at about 3,500-head.

9. Bison Bulls can weigh 2000 lbs.

Full grown bison males can literally weigh a ton. 


10. This makes it the largest land animal in North America.

The bison is the largest (by weight), followed by Moose which can weigh 1600 lbs.

11. But the heifers are quite smaller.

The female bison weigh in around 1000 lbs. or a little more. Although they don't tip the scales quite as much as their mates, the female bison is no small animal, herself.

12. Bison calves weigh 40-50 lbs. at birth.

So, you can imagine that the bison calves aren't so small either. They are born weighing around 40-50 lbs. and grow very rapidly from there.


13. Bison are made up largely of muscle, not fat.

One distinctive feature of bison is their large hump. This hump, and much of the rest of it's body is made up largely of muscle. Take a look at the incredibly large head of the bison. They need all this muscle to hold that head up. 

14. Like cattle, males are bulls, females are heifers and babies are calves.

Bison are bovines, so the terminology is the same as with cattle: bulls, cows / heifers and calves.

15. You don't want to get too close... bison can run 35-40 mph.

All their muscle means even though bison look like large, lazy animals, they are actually incredibly strong, fast and agile. Bison can run as fast as a galloping horse which is what can make a bison stampede so impressive.

16. Even the babies are pretty tough.

Just check out this video the National Geographic captured of a bison calf who was confronted by a predator:



17. There are two types of American Bison: Woods & Plains

There are two types of the American Bison, which have several differences in appearance. The Woods Bison (more often to be found in Canada) are heavier and taller with a more distinctive hump. Additionally, you can notice differences in their hair and coats.

18. Baby bison are cinnamon colored for the first couple months.

Most bison are not born dark brown (although occasionally you will get a dark calf). Most bison are born a reddish, cinnamon color which lasts for the first couple months of their lives. After two months, the coat begins turning brown.

Here's a picture of a young bison calf.

19. Heifers can have their first calves when they are 3 years.

Bison are weaned after about 6 months. Female bison begin breeding at 2 years and have their first calves at 3. (Gestation period for bison is about 9 1/2 months).

20. Bison calves are born in the spring, from April - June.

Spring is a wonderful time on any bison ranch as this is when the babies come! Because bison are still wild animals, even on private ranches, the calving process is all completely independent of human interference. The mother bison will generally leave the herd when she is ready to give birth and will return when the calf is able to join her.

21. They are up and walking with their mothers within hours of being born.


Since bison are instinctively roaming animals, it doesn't take long for the babies to be up and walking with their mothers. Generally, they are up and walking within hours. Here's a video from our ranch of a baby bison less than one day old:




22. Twins are very rare, but do occur.


This is Buster, an orphan twin, who was bottle fed and is now thriving.
In most cases, a bison will give birth to only one calf. However, in rare cases twins do occur. Unfortunately, because it is rare, the mother bison generally doesn't realize both babies are hers and one of the twins is left to fend for itself, usually resulting in its demise. However, when discovered early, and under the right circumstances, ranchers have been able to save these calves and bottle feed them. Here's a story about one such case.

23. Bison can live to be 20-25 years old.

Both in the wild and on private ranches, bison have been known to live into their twenties.


24. Bison are natural grazers.

Bison are instinctually always moving, never staying in one place for long. 

25. Both male and female bison have horns.

Although their are other ways to distinguish between male and female bison (size, humps, heads), horns is not one of those ways. Both bulls and heifers have horns.


26. Bison grow a winter coat each year which they naturally shed for summer.

Don't worry! She's just shedding her winter coat for the summer!
Bison are made to survive in harsh conditions: both cold, snowy winters and hot summers. So, each winter bison grow a thick coat to help keep them warm. In the spring and summer months, this coat is shed. So, if you ever see a bison that seems to be losing all its hair, check the calendar. It's probably just taking off its winter coat!




27. This winter coat is so thick and well insulated, snow can cover it without melting.


And this coat is quite impressive. It's been noted that it is so well insulated, snow which falls on the bison does not melt from body heat. Likely, this snow doesn't even bother the bison.


28. According to a study in Wisconsin, Bison are helping an endangered butterfly species survive.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources "revealed a link between habitat disturbances caused by American Bison and improved habitat" for the Karner Blue Butterflies during conservation efforts of this federally endangered species.

The bison's natural behavior of wallowing and rubbing their horns agains shrubs and trees apparently helps make excellent conditions for the butterfly.

29. There is a National Bison Association, a non-profit organization with over 1000 members.

With over 1000 members, the National Bison Association exists to promote preservation, production and marketing of bison. Many bison ranchers in the USA are members and the association hosts two annual conferences full of education and networking..

30. US Bison meat sales topped $340 million in 2015.

Bison meat sales have grown by 22% in the last five years, appealing to consumers looking for naturally raised, ethically raised and/or lean protein options.

31. That's less than 1% of the sale of cattle, hogs and poultry produced in 2015.

Although bison meat sales are growing, the industry is still a small fraction of total meat sales in the USA. Bison remains a novelty item with demand often outstripping supply.


32. But, Bison meat is growing wildly in popularity, showing up at farmers markets, specialty grocery stores and online.

The growth of the bison industry has been helped by the increasing availability of the meat. Specialty retailers such as Whole Foods, local farmers markets and other retailers dedicated to locally, sustainably raised products are keen to offer bison meat products. But, even if you can't find bison meat in your area, you can even get bison meat shipped straight to your door with online retailers.

33. Bison meat provides all the same cuts you can get from beef.

If you are new to bison meat, the good news is that it comes in all the same cuts you are already familiar with in beef. Bison is incredibly versatile. While the traditional cuts are considered premium cuts of meat, bison meat also works great in value-added / prepared products, as producers are creating such options as Bison Hot Dogs, Summer Sausages, Jerky, Protein Bars and more.

34. Bison is incredibly lean compared to other red meats.

One of the biggest selling points to fans of bison meat is the fact that it is so lean, while remaining tender and flavorful. (Remember how we talked about how muscular bison are? This is how they can be incredibly tender AND much leaner than beef).

35. A 4 oz. Serving of 90% lean Ground Bison has only 11g of fat.

That's a mere 17% of your recommended Daily Value. In addition, it has only 200 calories, 65mg of sodium, but 22g Protein. Compare that to the ground beef in your freezer.


36. A full 10 oz. Bison Top Sirloin has only 7g of fat.

Additionally, the 10 oz. steak has 140mg sodium, 320 calories, 61g protein


37. Bison can be cooked like any other meat and works in your favorite recipes – just go low and slow.

It's recommended that bison be cooked low and slow, due to its leanness. If you've ever had bison that was dry or tough one of two things probably happened: it was cooked too fast or it was cooked to long. Bison is recommended to cook to medium doneness or less for optimum taste.

38. The new designation of National Mammal is purely symbolic and does not move it into the protected class of the Bald Eagle.

The legislation is meant to honor the American Bison and its role in our history. However, it does not grant the same protections afforded to the endangered Bald Eagle. Bison can still be raised privately, hunted and raised for meat. 


39. It is illegal to use growth hormones in bison.

Bison producers raise bison without the use of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics.

40. Bison has been listed as a recommended lean meat by the American Heart Association.


Due to the lean nutrition facts of bison meat, organizations such as the American Heart Association list it in their recommendations.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

So Many Ways to Buy Bison Meat



Bison Meat (sometimes referred to as 'buffalo' meat) has grown so much in popularity over the past several years. The key for consumers who are looking to add bison meat to their diet, however, is finding a consistent supply of this healthier red meat.

Luckily, there are several places consumers can shop for this lean protein. You just need to know where to look and what you're looking for.

Depending on the cuts you're looking for and the area you live in, you may have few or several options for procuring top quality bison. I've outlined three suggestions below that will hopefully help you in your search for premium, lean bison meats.

1. Shop for Bison Meat Online

Shopping online for bison meat gives you the most selection of cuts and options available, and likely the most consistency in supply. Not to mention how easy it is!

Our online bison shop, NebraskaBison.com, ships a wide variety of bison meat cuts all over the United States throughout the year – and we have over 5 years experience at it and thousands of happy customers.

So, whether you're looking for a jalapeno/cheddar bison summer sausage, a big bison brisket, a great selection of bison steaks, or even just a steady supply of ground bison, a reputable online shop may be the perfect way to go.

Here's 5 reasons to should choose NebraskaBison.com.

 

2. Shop for Bison Meat at your local Farmers Market

If you have a local bison farmer in your area, this can also be a great way to get good quality bison meats. At NebraskaBison.com, since we own and operate two bison ranches (one in Nebraska and one in Missouri), we have a presence at three different farmers markets:
Bison is a popular item at Farmers Markets when it's available. If you have a great local farmers market near you, perhaps you'll find a local bison farmer!

If you are in the state of Nebraska, we also work with the Nebraska Food Cooperative, an online year-round farmers market which can bring our bison and many other farm raised products straight to your area.

 

3. Check local health food stores and specialty retailers

Finally, if you're not looking to purchase online and don't have any local farmers in your area, bison is starting to make a case for itself in specialty grocery stores and health food stores. So you may have some luck in getting your bison fix there. While ground bison and even some steaks are getting easier to find in stores, you'll still miss out on the prime cuts and unique offerings that buying farm direct can get you. 

7 More Recipes for Ground Bison | Bison Burger Month Inspiration


Here's 7 more recipes using Lean Ground Bison you may not have considered.

Bison Burger Month is still going strong, and in our quest to get as many people trying our favorite ingredient (Ground Bison!) as we can, we thought we'd share 7 more recipes you may not have thought to try with Ground Bison today!

The great thing about Bison Burger (or ground bison) is that it is extremely versatile and easy to cook with. You can use it as a leaner protein option in any of your favorite ground meat recipes. The only thing you'll want to change is just making an effort to cook it a little lower and slower!

So... here are 7 fun recipes to help take us through to the end of Bison Burger Month!

1. Grilled Bison Pizza

Have you tried bison on a pizza yet? Do it! Ground Bison has a slightly sweet flavor which works great on a pizza. Plus, you can feel good about topping a pizza with lean ground bison and vegetables. Talk about a win - win!

View Recipe

 

2. Bison Enchiladas

This is among one of the most popular recipes on our site in terms of traffic. This easy bison enchilada dish is quick to make and delicious to eat! Pair it with garden fresh pico de gallo and guacamole and you have a pretty great meal.

View Recipe

 

3. Bison Lasagna

Use our Lasagna recipe or your own, our lean Ground Bison Meat makes a great protein choice in this classic pasta dish.

View Recipe

 

4. Broccoli & Bison Won Ton Cups

This fun recipe makes great snackers or lunch options with lean meat and vegetables all packed into one bite.

View Recipe

 

5. Bison Chili

While our chili recipe is sure to please, we're confident that you'll love the flavor tender ground bison adds to any chili recipe.

View Recipe

 

6. Bison Potato Boats

Get a little different take on "meat and potatoes" with these Bison Potato (and Sweet Potato) Boats. This recipe is somewhere between potato skins and twice baked potatoes, adding in a little lean protein to make it a full on meal, if you want!

View Recipe

 

7. Bison Cheeseburger Roll Ups 

Finally, we have another unique recipe - a new take on the cheeseburger. These roll-ups are great finger foods and so they will work well for parties, appetizers, gameday and snacks while highlighting the great flavor of your favorite meat!

View Recipe

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bison Meatball Inspiration: Celebrating Bison Burger Month



Each August, we like to celebrate our favorite ingredient: Ground Bison Burger! I've put together this post to highlight some of my favorite Bison Meatball recipes. Ground Bison makes AMAZING meatballs because the meat already has such good flavor! Each of these recipes will give you a tasty meal highlighting the wonderful flavor of lean ground bison meat.

Savory Oven Roasted Bison Meatballs (Main Image)

This recipe, put together by the National Bison Association, is a delicious classic meatball recipe that will go great atop your next plate of spaghetti.

View Recipe

Cheesy, Firecracker Bison Meatballs

This recipe takes an easy, classic meatball recipe and adds cheese and crushed red pepper to spice it up! Another great way to top spaghetti or another pasta dish, especially if you love your pasta cheesy!

View Recipe

BBQ Cocktail Bison Meatballs

This recipe makes delicious meatballs that are great for serving at parties or when you are looking to have a spread of finger food / cocktail appetizers. A staple at our family events, these delicious BBQ meatballs are always a hit!

View Recipe

Bison Meatball Sub

What's a meatball inspiration post without a saucy meatball sub?

View Recipe

Porcupine Bison Meatballs

A bit of a unique spin on meatballs, these porcupine meatballs are a meal in one dish. With rice and tomato sauce, this is a fall favorite in my family!

View Recipe

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Remember: To celebrate Bison Burger Month, all Ground Bison and Bison Burger Patties are on sale. Shop now to get started with your own fun Bison Burger combinations!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bison Burger Inspirations: Celebrating Bison Burger Month



Each August, we like to celebrate our favorite ingredient: Ground Bison Burger! I've put together this post to highlight some of my favorite Bison Burger recipes from over the years to serve as inspiration for your own bison burgers!

Although there's never anything wrong with a pinch of salt and pepper and classic burger toppings, particularly with bison which has such a rich, sweet flavor anyway, sometimes it's fun to experiment with other flavor profiles and ingredients.

Spicy Island Bison Burger (Main Image)

This awesome Bison Burger combines several delicious flavors including grilled pineapple, cream cheese and jalapeno... an awesome summer burger!

View Recipe

Spicy Bison Burger

Kick up your next burger with jalapenos, onion and pepperjack cheese.

View Recipe

Greek Bison Burger

Enjoy the cool taste of Mediterranean flavors atop your burger with this unique recipe combination.

View Recipe

Bison Sloppy Joe

When you're looking to try something a little different, a sloppy joe is a great way to go! This easy recipe gives you a great start!

View Recipe

Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Bison Burger

The mild flavors of the sun dried tomato, basil and spinach that make up this burger let the delicious taste of bison really shine.

View Recipe

Bison Burger with Spinach & Chipotle Mayo

Chipotle mayo, green onion and spinach complement this tasty bison cheeseburger perfectly!

View Recipe

Avocado Bison Burger

Avocado is a great compliment to bison. With this simple avocado mixture on your burger, I know you'll love the flavor combination.

View Recipe

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Remember: To celebrate Bison Burger Month, all Ground Bison and Bison Burger Patties are on sale. Shop now to get started with your own fun Bison Burger combinations!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Celebrating 5 years of NebraskaBison.com!



Five years ago, in 2011, Randy & Jane Miller, along with Stacy Tamerius, completed the inaugural concept and design of NebraskaBison.com and uploaded the site to the web to start taking orders. Within a few days of our site going live, we recorded and shipped out our first order.

When we began, Randy had established a few local relationships with stores and restaurants that sold his bison meat, and had a tasty, popular jerky that the Miller's sold within their local mens' themed salons. But NebraskaBison.com was created with the mission to bring bison meat to a much wider audience, to establish a brand and make it available nationally.

Over the past five years, we have strove to provide a superior product and provide excellent customer service to everyone who chooses NebraskaBison.com. We continue to explore and experiment with new product options and look forward to introducing even more new products to you yet this year. Along the way, we've experienced growing pains and learned a lot of lessons about providing our product at this level. We continue to learn and do everything we can to make shopping with NebraskaBison.com as easy and tasty as possible!

We feel privileged to be your choice for bison meat products and look forward to many more years of shipping our bison meat across the country. We are grateful for the opportunity of getting to know many of our customers over these past 5 years through farmers markets, phone calls and emails and are always appreciative of hearing from those we serve.

We are excited to see NebraskaBison.com continue to grow each year as more and more people discover bison and as you share our story with your family and friends. We are deeply thankful for each and every customer who shops with us and shares our story.
Thank YOU for your support over these past five years. We look forward to the next five and beyond!

– Randy & Jane Miller and Stacy Tamerius, NebraskaBison.com

We have joined the Nebraska Food Cooperative!

Today I've got great news for bison meat fans in Nebraska! We're offering you yet another channel to get your bison meat favorites!

As always, you can of course continue ordering from us online at NebraskaBison.com. This is obviously where you will always have the greatest selection of bison meat products to choose from, and can get it without waiting for a certain day or time.

We are still also participating in the Haymarket Farmers Market in Lincoln, and dabbling in some markets in Omaha.

But, if neither of those outlets are exactly what you're looking for... we're now proud to say we are officially a part of the Nebraska Food Cooperative: an online, year-round farmers market!

How does the Nebraska Food Cooperative Work?

It's quite simple. As a member of the co-op, you are eligible to shop from a wide range of food products, much like at a farmers market including meats and produce.

During an order cycle (which open every other Wednesday and end the following Sunday), you can put any items available on the site into your basket.

Once the order cycle closes, each producer gets a notification of what items are purchased and take their items to a local drop off site.

The following Wednesday or Thursday (depending on your location) you then go to an assigned pickup spot to gather each of the items you bought.

It's quite simple really!

What products can I buy from the Co-op?

We're starting small by making only a few select, highly popular products available to begin: our Gourmet Bison Franks and our Ground Bison. Once we are able to gauge a little bit more of the demand for our product through this network, we will consider adding more products to the site.

How do I get started?

Visit the Nebraska Food Cooperative website and create an account. There are four membership tiers from which you can select:
  • Voting member: Membership cost is $100 for the first year + $20/year thereafter
  • Non-voting member: Membership cost is $40.00 per year
  • Visitor: For infrequent orders, pay only $6.00 per order
  • Free Trial:€“ Order once for free (you still pay for the food)
The costs of membership help to offset the costs the co-op faces for travel and managing each pick up spot. 

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