The Buffalo in North America are actually American Bison, but it’s far too late to change that thinking, now. What can be changed, however, is the thought that they are or were ever extinct. At the start of the 1900s, they were indeed on the edge, with only about 1,000 to 1,500 Bison left. But through private and government efforts in America, they have started to come back. The herds now number 400,000, with the number increasing rapidly given that Bison are now being ranched for meat.
Buffalo meat is currently mostly being promoted for its “health” benefits, with marketers saying that it is healthier than beef. The public doesn’t seem to be buying into this argument, though: it may be the kid in us that instinctively remembers the battles over the stuff on our plates that was “good for us.”
Buffalo meat is currently far more expensive than beef, because it is still sold as a specialty product, and because of the low supply, compared to beef. As of 2004, there are over 60 million cows in America alone (not counting Canada and Mexico), while there are just 250,000 commercial Buffalo. Even with the limited supply, a good deal of the Buffalo meat being produced is still surplus, because people just haven’t taken to it.
In 1999 alone, the US government bought about ¼ of the industry’s ground meat. The producers want a certain price for it, so the government is buying the surplus to keep the price up, at levels about twice the price of beef (though it can be much cheaper if you happen to live right in a production area.) With the number of commercial Bison increasing every year by about 20%, America may not only have revived the Buffalo, but also created another agricultural industry to subsidize. Soon, it may be the America taxpayer that needs reviving.
There are two types of American Bison: Woodlands and Plains. It’s the Plains Buffalo that is mostly being raised; the Woodland Buffalo has gamier tasting meat. Producers advertise Buffalo as being sweeter-tasting than beef, but not everyone agrees with them.
The meat is a darker red than beef.
Buffalo is a very lean meat, because the beasts exercise a great deal more than do cows. When’s the last time you saw a stampede of Holstein cows?
The mistake that people make in cooking Buffalo is in cooking it the same way as beef, which is what the informational pamphlets advise. In fact, because Buffalo is very low in fat, you can’t cook it for as long as beef or it will get quite tough and dry: it doesn’t have enough fat to keep it juicy.
If you like well-done meat, you aren’t going to be happy with Buffalo steaks. Buffalo steaks will cook about ⅓ faster than beef steaks, and are not very good when cooked to well-done. They shouldn’t be cooked much past medium-rare: past that, they get tough and dry. When barbequing, you may even want to raise the grill higher over the flames than you would for beef. Treat it as you almost as you would a steak from the hind area of the cow.
Some people feel that Buffalo steaks will never be as tender as beef ones are, and that Buffalo is best enjoyed as a ground meat. Ground Buffalo meat experiences very little shrinkage because of its leanness. The upside of this is that the cooked ground meat will be pretty close to the weight of what you paid for. The downside is that you must be very careful that it doesn’t dry out, and that you may need to add fat in the form of butter or oil.
A Buffalo roast needs a far lower roasting temperature than does a good quality beef one: treat it as a pot roast, and cook it low and slow.
Buffalo meat cuts are being named in the same way as are beef cuts.
|Thickness||Rare (minutes per side)||Medium ( minutes per side)|
|1 inch||3 to 4||5 to 6|
|1 ½ inches||5 to 6||7 to 9|
|2 inches||7 to 10||10 to 12|
The Sioux Indian word for Bison was “tatanka”.