Try bison meat for great taste …
By SCOTT MARTELLE
From Mother Earth News
Grass-fed bison has less than a quarter of the total fats of grain-fed beef – and less fat even than grass-fed beef – with slightly more fat than skinless industrial chicken breast.
Bison can also have as much as four times the level of omega-3 “good fats” as industrial beef.
Few foods are more indigenous to America than bison. Early settlers referred to the animal as buffalo because French fur trappers called the animals “boeuf,” which means “ox” or “bullock,” and which sounds much like “buff.”
Yet bison are not related to true buffalos such as the African water buffalo, and are instead closely related to domestic cows and European bison (also known as wisents).
For a time, it looked as if bison would go extinct. Before Europeans began moving westward onto the Great Plains, the bison was the dominant grazing mammal, numbering in the tens of millions and ranging from present-day northern Mexico into Canada.
They were a staple of existence for Native American tribes of the Great Plains, but by the late 1800s the settlers had slaughtered the buffalo to near-extinction – down to only about 700 animals.
The survivors were moved to parks, zoos and private herds, and over time they split into essentially two different bison – pure-bred wild bison (about 5 percent), and those whose genome has been modified by inbreeding and crossbreeding with domesticated cattle.
The latter now accounts for the majority of available meat.
Now there are more than 450,000 head on public lands and in private herds in the United States and Canada. Some 4,500 private farms and ranches raise the iconic animals.
Most of those ranchers got their start after the mid-1960s, when Custer State Park in South Dakota auctioned some of its herd, said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association.
Managing a bison herd is not for the inexperienced. While bison thrive on grass, they can sustain themselves on hay and require about the same acreage per head as cattle.
But bison have never been domesticated. They are big, strong and unpredictable. They will attack humans if they feel threatened, which means they can be extremely dangerous.
Yet for all of that, bison ranching is simpler than cattle ranching in some ways, said Delaware buffalo rancher Bobby Collins, whose two herds total about 70 head.
Bison grow to more than 6 feet in height, and Collins harvests them when they are between 1,050 and 1,150 pounds (the yield is about 62 percent of the live weight, or from about 650 to 713 pounds of meat per animal).
These days, ranchers can’t produce enough animals to supply the demand.
In June, the National Bison Association reported that marketers could sell 25 percent more buffalo meat if ranchers could produce it, though production of harvested bison rose to 70,000 animals in 2009, double the production in 2002.
Lower in cholesterol than chicken, grass-fed bison has more of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed, feedlot animals.
Omega-3s help limit plaque buildup inside arteries and the heart, and reduce arterial inflammation and clotting. People who eat lots of omega-3s have a lower chance of having high blood pressure, and are as much as 50 percent less likely to suffer heart attacks.
Once mostly eaten in restaurants, bison is moving onto family tables. In 2004, some 80 percent of bison sales were through restaurants. In May 2011, an industry survey found the market about evenly split between restaurants and grocery stores.
Remember that bison’s low fat content means it can easily dry out on the grill or on the stove. On the grill, cooking only five minutes a side for bison steaks is about right.
Bison roasts take particularly well to a slow cooker, the “low and slow” approach to cooking the meat while still keeping it moist.
Bison is so adaptable that it can stand in for beef in any recipe.
Peruvian lomo saltado
Potatoes originated in the Peruvian Andes, so it is no surprise that they figure into one of Peru’s favorite dishes.
Lomo Saltado translates roughly as “jumping loin,” because the strips of meat jump around as you stir-fry them.
In this recipe, adapted from one by the National Bison Association, you’ll see the cross-cultural influence of Asian and South American ingredients combined with North American bison meat.
1 pound bison tri-tip roast, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or French fries
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 red onion, sliced thinly into slivers
1 hot yellow pepper, sliced in thin rings (preferably Peruvian ‘Aji Amarillo’)
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 plum tomatoes, sliced into thin strips, with bulk of seeds removed
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepared white rice
Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Let bison come to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before cooking.
Cook the French fries or potato wedges in a skillet with oil (or bake in the oven). Keep warm.
Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet on medium-high heat, and saute garlic with the cumin for 1 minute.
Add bison, season with salt and pepper and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer bison to a plate or bowl.
Add the onions, hot yellow pepper and red peppers to the same pan and cook about 3 minutes, until the onions are soft, adding a little more vegetable oil if needed.
Add the vinegar and soy sauce and cook 2 to 3 more minutes.
Return the bison to the pan, add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the French fries to the pan, toss.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and serve with rice.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Excerpted from Mother Earth News, the Original Guide to Living Wisely. To read more articles from Mother Earth News, please visit www.MotherEarthNews.com or call (800) 234-3368 to subscribe. Copyright 2011 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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