Bison boasts fewer calories, grams of fat and cholesterol than most meats including beef, pork and skinless chicken. The wild animal is lower in fat and cholesterol than most meats and meat alternatives. For the same serving size, bison has one-quarter of the fat found in beef; one-third of the fat found in chicken; and half the fat found in turkey. Because of its lower fat content, the American Heart Association recommends bison meat as a leaner alternative to beef.
A four ounce (112 gram) serving of roasted bison contains 160 calories, 2.2 grams of fat and 83 milligrams of cholesterol. Like other meats, bison is also an excellent source of protein and iron - providing about 30% of the recommended daily allowance for both these nutrients in each serving. A four ounce steak of bison has the same amount of protein a New York strip loin of beef, with less fat.
One Food Guide serving of bison is 2.5 ounces (75 g). Here's the nutrient analysis for one serving of roasted bison:
(Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007)
Bison are hoofed cattle from the family Bovidae, which is divided into two species: the European bison and the American bison. There are approximately 350,000 bison in North America today. These can be further divided into two subtypes, the prairie bison and the wood bison.
The wood bison is credited for surviving the mass slaughter of buffalo during the 1800s. It's heavier than the prairie bison, with large males weighing more than 900 kilograms (approximately 2000 lbs). It's by far the largest terrestrial animal in North America.
In Canada, wood bison are typically bred for meat manufacturing and consumption.
Retail cuts of bison available in Canada and the U.S. are similar to those of beef. Some butcher's will have bison chuck steak, rib steak, sirloin steak, blade roasts or ground bison formed into burger patties. Look for a cut that is deep red with the least amount of white flecks or marbling (saturated fat). You can also purchase bacon, ham and sausage made from bison at certain specialty food stores.
As with other meat products, purchase bison before any "Best Before" dates on the packaging expire.
Bison meat is stored the same as any other type of meat. In the store, put the package of raw bison in disposable plastic bags to contain any leakage which could contaminate produce. Take the bison meat home immediately and refrigerate at 4° C. Eat ground or cut-up stewing portions of bison within two days of purchase, or freeze.
Larger cuts such as roasts and steaks can be refrigerated for three to five days before eating, otherwise you need to freeze it.
Ground or cut-up bison meat will keep in the freezer for four months. Larger cuts will keep for six to nine months. If freezing for more than two months, over-wrap the meat packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a plastic bag in minimize freezer burn.
Leftover cooked bison should be consumed within three to four days.
Frozen bison meat can be defrosted in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.
Because bison is a dense meat with less fat and more protein than beef so it will not shrink down after cooking. Since it is very lean and lacks fat marbling, bison also cooks faster than other red meats. Try to marinade bison for at least a half hour before cooking to increase tenderness.
To avoid overcooking, bison should be prepared using low heat 160 °C (325 °F) and longer cooking times. Slow cooking, braising or other moist cooking methods are recommended for bison roasts. Bison steaks can be grilled just like beef steaks. Broiling, stir-frying and other high, dry heat methods are good for thinly sliced bison cuts.
Use a meat thermometer to check that cooked ground bison meat, like bison burgers, have reached 70 °C (160 °F).
Bison is a sweet, rich tasting meat with no game-like aftertaste. It's a versatile, lean alternative to beef in many common dishes.
Healthy ways to enjoy
Try crisp bison bacon with your eggs and whole wheat toast as a weekend treat.
As a change, for Sunday breakfast switch your pork-filled breakfast sausage to a lean bison sausage.
Try bison ham with a poached egg on a whole wheat English muffin for a twist on Eggs Benedict.
Add thinly sliced leftover roasted bison to your next sandwich with wholegrain bread and a little Dijon mustard.
Add chunks of fresh bison meat to a slow-cooked stew or soup.
Boil, then roast bison ribs with your favourite barbeque sauce. Enjoy with a side salad.
Skewer mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and red onion with chunks of lean bison. Season to taste, and grill for a delicious bison kebab.
Slice medium-rare bison steak onto a leafy green salad and top with a low fat dressing for a healthy meal.
Rub a bison steak with lemon pepper, garlic and oil and grill it on the barbeque. Enjoy with a side of brussel sprouts and sweet potato.
Let an onion, a can of beans, a can of tomatoes and one pound of ground bison simmer on the stove with your favourite chilli spice mixture for a great winter warm up.
Form ground bison into half-inch patties. Pan fry or grill to the correct internal temperature (70 °C) and serve on a bun with your favourite hamburger toppings.
Use ground bison in place of ground beef to lighten up your usual meatball or meatloaf recipe.
Snacks and Desserts
Have a taste of warm bison mincemeat with vanilla ice cream for an imperial treat.
As an appetizer, try bison cocktail meatballs with jellied sauce.
Enjoy a small slice of bison "muffin" for as a hearty snack with your coffee or tea.
Did you know?
Some believe that bison came over on the land bridge connecting Asia and North America some 10,000 years ago.
Bison are low-maintenance, eco-friendly animals that don't over-graze grasslands.