- Bison is seeing a resurgence in the U.S. thanks to the health benefits the meat offers consumers as an alternative to beef and other red meat options, Meat + Poultry reported.
- Bison has fewer calories and less fat than beef, and its natural lifestyle also makes it an arguably more sustainable choice.
- The government has banned use of growth hormones in bison, and antibiotics use is strictly limited to treating sick animals at minimal doses, the National Bison Association told Meat + Poultry.
More recently released research, including new data from a 40-year-old study, suggests that consumers may not need to focus on the saturated fat in red meat as much as once thought. The research found that saturated fats may not accurately play the role portrayed in heart disease and other chronic illnesses. A study published this week said that the sugar industry was behind the accusation that fat was the culprit in certain diseases rather than sugar, though experts and consumers are beginning to question that.
But there are still consumers who would prefer to cut back on their fat and calorie intake, for whom bison might be the better meat option. A Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health Poll found that just over one-third of consumers (35%) admitted to being confused about how much and what types of fats they should consume.
Besides the health benefits consumers demand, bison also offers manufacturers other opportunities. These include the near assurance that this category will continue to grow because of steady consumer demand and bison's ability to benefit the environment and be more sustainable. On the other hand, maintaining production at a level that meets that demand could be challenging, especially considering the more natural lifestyle bison tend to lead.
Bison demand may continue to increase for now, but production is unlikely to ever reach a level beyond a niche meat category, Dave Carter, executive director for the National Bison Association, told Meat + Poultry. That enables manufacturers to charge premium-tiered prices, but it means that unit sales will be limited by the availability of the bison herds themselves.