This Summer, I purchased a whole bison from a local bison rancher. I did this for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is—the meat is thoroughly enjoyed by my entire family.
However, my personal reasons for purchasing a whole bison run much deeper.
For starters, its a species I have long been borderline obsessed with. The more I learn about them—and the significant role they play in a thriving natural system, the more fascinating they become.
The fertile soil that made the United States so attractive to settlers, who threw caution to the wind and headed West, in search of a better life—was the result of thousands of years of bison roaming, grazing, fertilizing, and roaming some more.
Bison are powerful, well-adapted to the harsh varying climates of North America, and captivating to behold on the landscape.
What it boils down to is... I bought a whole bison because I want to see MORE bison on the landscape.
The law of supply and demand states that as demand increases, so will supply.
By investing in food systems that excite us and inspire our kitchens and imaginations, we are directing funds toward ensuring there are MORE great things on the landscape, not less.
The bison we purchased was a 3 year old bull. (Many producers start harvesting animals at 2 or 2.5 years of age, where this particular rancher prefers to wait until the animals are 3 to ensure they reach full sexual maturity... or at least that's how it was explained to me.)
Our bull lived out his entire life on fertile green pastures and was only fed supplemental hay during the deepest of snow, during January and February.
Side note: the rancher told me they had problems with a large herd of elk coming down and hammering the haystacks during the Winter. A problem, I explained, I was more than happy to assist with (assuming they could get the necessary depredation permits from IDFG.)
The bull was harvested in late August and hung for a few days to age before being broken down to our specifications—steaks, roasts, and ground. And what a delight it has been to enjoy & share the meat from this animal with family and friends.
I am of the opinion that the roasts are wildly underrated. I'll be sharing my favorite Bison Ragu recipe soon... it's been called "the best thing you make" by more folks than just my wife.
Certainly, a good bit of this animal will be preserved into jerky—a phenomenal way to extend the useful life of your meat supply.
I am thrilled to do my part to utilize all of the meat from this bison, and look forward to sharing it with family this Holiday season. I want to see many more pasture-raised bison sprinkling the landscape and I hope to continue to invest in a system that encourages this sort of relationship with our food.
Expect to see more bison around here...