Bison is available in most areas of the country in specialty meat shops, natural and organic markets, groceries stores and membership warehouse outlets. Many people prefer to purchase bison meat from a local rancher or at a farmers’ market. One benefit of buying bison directly from a rancher is the option of buying in bulk.
Generally, buying in bulk means one customer buys a quarter or half a bison carcass. The carcass is typically divided from neck to tail along the spine for two, symmetrical halves. Some bison operations also offer sample packages that include several steaks, roasts and several pounds of burger.
There are many advantages to buying in bulk from cost savings, convenience to custom cutting. Buying in bulk is more cost effective than buying individual retail packages of burger or steaks. Another option for individuals and families is to share a half or whole carcass with other people. It is common for four families to purchase a whole carcass and split it into quarters. It this scenario, the quarters will not be exactly even but friends can arm wrestle for that extra bison T-bone.
Many people enjoy the convenience of having a wide variety of meat cuts right at their fingertips, without having to go to the store. Meal planning becomes easier and time is saved. A family of four can expect a half carcass to last twelve to eighteen months depending on how many times per week they eat bison.
Another advantage of buying bulk is being able to choose how the meat is cut and wrapped. Roasts can be various weights depending on if you prefer smaller three pound roasts or larger five to six pound roasts; burger can be in patties or bulk and in one or two pound packages and in many cases you can choose how lean your burger is mixed. You can also choose the type of cuts you want. Do you make roasts or would the shoulder meat be better as kebab or stew meat? If you typically cook recipes using ground burger you can ask for more burger and fewer less-tender cuts and roasts. Don’t forget to ask for the bones, soup bones, femur and joint bones can be used in many recipes including making bone broth-take a look in our unique recipe section. You can customize your bulk order to suit your cooking style and eating preferences by work with your processor to fit your needs.
Plan ahead. Half or even a quarter of a bison will not fit in the freezer space above a refrigerator. Additional freezer space will be necessary. Generally freezers are very reliable but it is wise to take precautions. Purchasing a thermometer that you place inside your freezer is a very inexpensive safety net. When a freezer fails it happens slowly. If the thermometer reads lower for several day it is an indicator that the freezer may be failing. It is also a good idea to check your freezer every day or two should the electrical grounding mechanism be tripped by lightning or another problem, early detection could save hundreds of dollars of meat from spoiling. Bison meat can be kept in the freezer for one year wrapped in plastic and butcher paper. Vacuum-packed meat can be kept in a freezer several months longer. Extended periods of time can cause meat to become freezer-burned and less appealing but still edible.
If you have never tried bison or have had bison burgers and steak in a restaurant and want to cook bison at home, start by purchasing a sample package. This will give you some experience cooking bison before making the commitment to a larger quantity of bison. Make sure the sampler pack includes the majority of cuts that would be included in a bulk purchase and be sure to read our tips about cooking bison. Keep in mind bison can replace beef in any recipe, is nutritionally superior and absolutely delicious!
Bison meat can be kept in the freezer for one year if properly packaged, double paper wrapped or vacuum sealed. If using zip top freezer bags, bison can be stored for 3 months.