How Bison (and Wine) Get Their Flavor
Have you ever wondered what makes a steak from one side of the country taste different than one from the other side? We’re not talking about how it’s cooked or what it’s seasoned with but rather, the taste of the actual meat itself. How can the same cut of bison taste so different depending on where it’s raised? The term “terroir” is most often used in the wine industry, but essentially it means we should be able to taste the environment in which a plant, meat, or product was grown or raised.
How does the environment affect the flavor of bison?
The climate, the type of grasses, access to pasture, soil minerals, fresh air, and the overall quality of the environment all affect the taste of our food. Soil nutrients, for instance, give a subtle flavor to the taste of meat, especially when it comes to grassfed meat. Even the types of grasses animals consume ultimately affect the taste of the meat that ends up on our plates. Bison that dine on grasses that are sweeter in nature will have a slightly sweeter flavor to their meat whereas bison raised in an area where the native grasses are more bitter, may not taste as sweet.
The same is true when it comes to grain-fed versus grassfed animals. Grain-fed meat, beef in particular, tends to be more fatty, which causes marbleization within the meat. The fat found in grain-fed animals (corn is typically the go-to flavor profile) is usually white, but according to the USDA, when an animal is grassfed, their fat actually becomes yellow in color. This is good because it means it’s packed with beta-carotene. Remember, fat is not necessarily bad, but many farmers who use grain as their main source of feed may also inject hormones into their meat in order to boost growth. This practice can be harmful to the animal as well as you. Thankfully, federal regulation actually prohibits the use of hormones in bison.
100% grassfed, 100% of the time
From a historical perspective, bison have never consumed grains like corn or soy. They have grazed their way across the grasslands of North America for thousands of years and we see no reason to change that. Our bison are 100% grassfed from the time they are born until the time they are harvested.
Our bison ranchers practice a method of ranching called Holistic Management. This promotes the growth of a large variety of native grasses that are used to feed the bison like Bluestem, Timothy, Clovers, and Dandelions. The bison then absorb all of the vitamins naturally present in these plants. This not only enhances the flavor of the meat, but it also completely eliminates the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemically enhanced farming practices. By modeling a grazing style and keeping the bison in their natural environment, the bison can just be bison and roam the prairies like they once did. It’s amazing what happens when we let Mother Nature do her job!
Quality you can taste
Flavor is determined by the quality of meat you are purchasing and no matter what type of meat you purchase, it is always important to investigate where your meat is coming from and how it is being raised and produced. Beyond environmental factors, things like stress can also have a huge impact on the taste of your meat, not to mention the quality of life for the animals (more on that to come). Companies that use sustainable and natural processes also tend to have more humane practices. They will also be transparent about their processes so don’t be afraid to ask questions. And on that note, if you ever have a question about our animals, ranchers or how we do anything, please feel free to reach out to us. We want you to feel good about what you’re eating!