3 Things You Can Do To Save These Endangered Animals What’s on Your Plate – Buffalo Or Bison?

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What’s on Your Plate – Buffalo Or Bison?

The majestic animals that dominated the landscape of the plains during our country’s early history are often called buffalo. Although referenced in popular folklore and fire songs, the buffalo does not actually roam the Americas. The animal commonly called a buffalo is actually the American bison.

The confusion of the name goes back to the days of the explorers. The word “bison” has Greek roots and means an animal like an ox. Whereas, “buffalo” comes from the French word “boeufs” which means ox or bull. So the origins of the wrong name are remarkably similar, leading to even further confusion. The term buffalo dates back further than the word bison, however, bison is the official name of the border symbol. The two names for the same animal were simply the result of the American melting pot and multiple cultures assimilating together.

Officially, there are two types of buffalo, the African buffalo and the Asian buffalo, but these animals are completely unrelated to the American bison and don’t even look like bison. So, technically, Buffalo was never native to North America. When people ask, what is the difference between a bison and a buffalo, the answer is “nothing” and “a lot” at the same time. When individuals refer to the American icon, buffalo and bison are usually used interchangeably.

There was a time when the bison had almost died out in the country’s bison belt. Their meat was prized for being nutritious and rich in protein, however the true value of the bison during the westward movement was the animals large and plush hide. Skin parties would capture animals for their skins. Unfortunately, the animals were heavily hunted and were unable to sustain a large population.

A select few herds survived near extinction by hiding in isolated areas such as Antelope Island in Utah or Pelican Valley near Yellowstone National Park. In the early 1900s, some ranchers tried to revive the bison by gathering small herds together to create a stable population. Because of the diligent work of these ranchers to re-establish the bison as a mainstay in North America, the North American bison is no longer an endangered species.

For the past two decades, ranchers and bison enthusiasts have worked hard to re-introduce bison as an edible meat, a tasty alternative to beef. Many ranchers introduced bison to their properties after learning that bison were the backbone of the Plains Indians, who never suffered from cancer, heart disease or strokes despite living to be eighty to ninety years old. In fact, scientists speculated that if the Plains Indians had had dental care, they would have lived to one hundred and thirty-five.

Bison continues to grow in popularity as a dinner table due to the nutritional benefits of this lean red meat, including:

  • Bison meat has fewer calories and less cholesterol than chicken, fish or ostrich.
  • Bison meat is 97% fat-free.
  • Bison meat has 40% more protein than beef.
  • Eating 5 oz of bison, 3-4 times a week can help most people lower their LDL cholesterol by 40 to 45% over a 6-month period.

Bison farms are dedicated to promoting bison conservation as well as the environment. Most bison ranches allow their herds to roam large areas where natural habitat is preserved, rather than confining the animals to pastures. The animals are fed a natural diet and are not given enhancers such as steroids or hormones. These measures contribute to the quality and taste of the meat, while also giving the bison an enjoyable life.

So whether you’ve tried bison meat, seen it on a menu at a local restaurant or maybe even heard Ted Turner talk about it, it doesn’t matter if you call it “buffalo” meat – but now you know, technically it is “bison” meat.

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