That was the theme as nearly 600 bison producers, marketers and enthusiasts gathered in Denver, CO in January for the National Bison Association’s 24th annual meeting.
That phrase is more than just a conference slogan. It describes the steady growth and success of the North American bison business over the past decade.
The bison business now stands at an unparalleled position of strength, stability and profitability. Sales of bison meat in restaurants and retail stores now tops $350 million a year. Prices that ranchers are receiving from processors and marketers have been pegged at all-time highs for the past nine years.
That’s why we like to tout another phrase as well: The Bison Advantage.
The American public is embracing deliciously healthy bison meat, because of the advantages it offers in great flavor, nutritional benefits, and environmental sustainability. Federal regulations prohibit the use of artificial growth hormones in bison, and our industry protocols limit antibiotic use to only the amounts needed to treat illnesses in the animals. Because bison are a natural part of the North American ecosystem, bison ranching can be a beneficial to the natural environment.
For bison ranchers—and prospective ranchers—the Bison Advantage refers to many factors. For a start, bison thrive on native grasses, and are adapted to the climate extremes and the predators of our ecosystem, Consider these factors:
- No artificial shelter (barns, etc.) needed. Bison prefer to be outside, year round, despite the weather.
- Efficient feed utilization, making them economical foragers which do well on most grasses in the United States.
- Long productive lives.
- Primary requirements: Fresh water and adequate nutrition.
- Calving rarely requires human intervention. Bison by and large calve on their own.
- Superior hardiness results in disease resistance, lower input costs, fewer veterinarian visits.
- Bison thrive in most North American landscapes with no ill effects.
- The bison industry enjoys a free enterprise market without excessive intervention.
- Bison demand has consistently grown in double digits for the past six years.
The monthly wholesale bison price report compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture illustrates the stability and profitability of our business. The Meat Price Analysis December 2018 further illustrates this strength and stability.
The NBA also has a thorough database of the latest live bison auction reports from around the country.
Access to current live animal and meat prices is only one of the advantages of being a member of the NBA. This spring, we compiled the world’s largest database of scholarly literature on bison herd health and management. While the general public has access to the abstracts within this database, members can access each document at no charge. And, NBA members get Trading Board notifications 48 hours before the information goes out to the general public. Explore the benefits of NBA membership here.
Growth is good. Strength and stability are even better. Since 2012, the value of slaughter bull carcasses has ranged between $3.95 – $4.89/lb. This past year, we began to face new threats and challenges in the marketplace. Most significant was the emergence of imported water buffalo meat in the U.S. In both pet food and human food, these products were being deceptively labeled to mislead consumers into believing they were buying North American bison. The National Bison Association is working diligently with the appropriate regulators and legislative leaders to address this threat.
As we move into 2019, the National Bison Association will be redoubling our work to communicate with the American public, and to promote deliciously healthy bison meat. We are dedicated to strengthening the bond of trust we’ve developed with our customers. Included in our consumer outreach will be a series of pop-up promotional events in three major cities. These events are being made possible through the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.
The National Bison Association offers a trove of resources to assist producers in developing a viable, sustainable and profitable bison business. Our 2ndEdition Bison Produces’ Handbook is packed with information from 25 different experts on all facets of bison ranching and marketing.
A few years ago, the National Bison Association initiated a Bison 101 online curriculum to introduce prospective producers to the basics of our business. Our in-depth Bison 201 curriculum is providing newcomers and veteran producers alike with new tools for business planning, animal handling, and marketing. Please note, these trainings are currently being updated and will be available in March of 2019.
Additionally, we offer our 40-minute DVD, The Insiders’ Guide to Bison Handling & Management, as valuable tools that will help newcomers make a smooth transition into our business.
Thanks to resources provided by USDA’s Risk Management Agency, we are developing a new app that will bring herd health and management information to the fingertips of any producer with a smart phone.
Today’s growth represents a remarkable comeback for a species that teetered on the brink of extinction little more than a century ago. The decimation of the bison herds in the late 1800’s is a bleak chapter in American history. Herds that numbered more than 30 million when the first European explorers set foot on the American continent were nearly wiped out by the 1880’s. At the turn of the 20th century, fewer than 1,000 bison remained in existence. Today, roughly 400,000 bison now roam the pastures and rangelands across North America, and more than 90 percent of those animals are on private ranches. It’s an amazing story of restoration.
The future is bright for the bison business, where producers, marketers, customers, chefs, nutritionists and environmentalists all agree: America’s original red meat is good for our health, good for our environment, and absolutely delicious.
If you are interested in becoming part of the emerging, exciting bison business, please contact the NBA, or by phone at (303) 292-2833, and we’ll get you started.