The North American Bison is an iconic animal that conjures images of large free ranging herds, grazing on native grassland prairies. Like all ruminant animals, bison are biologically engineered to consume grass and through the power of their four chambered stomach, convert that cellular material into nourishing meat. Consistent with consumer expectations, ALL bison begin their lives consuming grass on ranches that are pasture based, however, what few consumers realize is that the majority of these majestic animals are moved to confined systems and finished on a diet of grain. This is the bison industry's dirty secret and something that national retailers of bison don't want you to know.
As of 2016, approximately 61,300 bison were harvested per year in the United States (compared to 125,000 cows per day!). Unfortunately, 80 percent of all bison in North America are finished on a diet of grains like corn, wheat, barley, and oats—and most consumers don’t even realize it.
As of right now, accessibility to 100 percent grass-fed bison is extremely limited. In fact, sadly, you can’t purchase 100 percent grass-fad bison at any national grocery store in the U.S, not even a natural-food store chain (with the exception of a few regional Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage). As a consumer, stop assuming that your bison meat is from free range, grass-fed animals and start carefully inspecting the packaging for claims that align with your values. In most circumstances, nationally distributed bison brands will callout "Natural Bison" on their package. This should be a red flag that this meat came from a feedlot and the animal was fed a diet of grains.
When in doubt, look for a "100% Grass-fed Bison" callout on your package. This grass-fed claim is protected by the USDA and the only way to ensure that your meat was raised in a way that is both good for the animal as well as the planet. As a company committed to elevating the entire meat industry, Force of Nature is the only nationally distributed brand offering 100% grass-fed and -finished bison. When you purchase from us, you can be sure that your meat is of the highest quality.
Why You Should Buy Grass-Fed
Grass-fed bison is tastier, more nutritious, and better for the environment than grain-finished bison. Grass-fed bison is leaner than grain-fed bison, and while you may have heard that more intramuscular fat (aka, marbling) means better flavor, the opposite is true. The unique, slightly sweet flavor of bison meat comes from moisture content, not fat, and studies have shown that grass-finished bison has a higher moisture content than grain-finished. In grass-finished bison, what fat is present should be a nice, yellowish color—as opposed to the white color of grain-finished bison fat (you’ll notice this color difference in grain- vs. grass-fed beef, too).
Studies have also shown that grass-fed and -finished bison has four times the selenium of grain-fed. It’s also higher in beta-carotene (the compound that gives the fat its yellow color, and important for vitamin A production) and conjugated linoleic acid (linked to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity—and nearly non-existent in grain-fed bison). Finally, grass-finished bison has a far more desirable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grain-fed bison's staggering 8:1 ratio. A 100% grass-fed bison can hit a 2:1 ratio!
Converting the bison supply chain from grain-finished to grass-finished won’t be an easy process—there are reasons many ranchers choose to finish their bison on grains, including short growing seasons that limit the availability of nutrient-dense grasses—but we’re confident that, with the help of conscious consumers and educated ranchers, it can happen. As we mentioned above, right now, only about 20 percent of the bison supply chain is grass-fed and -finished. But when we first got involved in the industry, back in 2013, that number was only 3 percent, and just a year later, it had gone up to 5 percent. With hard work, advocacy, and education—and with you, the consumer, demanding the highest quality in your meat—we’re confident we can continue to drive that number higher. Shop our selection of 100% grass-fed bison today!