Current Status

Nearly 600 bison producers, marketers and enthusiasts from across North America gathered in Denver, CO in January 2020 to celebrate the National Bison Association’s 25th anniversary convention.

There was a lot to celebrate. The North American bison business has steadily grown and enjoyed profitability over the past decade. A large increase of market ready bison—combined with the impact of deceptively labeled water buffalo meat and pet food ingredients—caused prices to slip in 2019, but the year ended with the price of dressed bison carcasses pegged at more than twice the price of beef.

Sales of bison meat in restaurants and retail stores now tops $350 million a year, and marketers report continued opportunities for increasing sales.

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 beneficial to the natural environment.

We like to call it The Bison Advantage.

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 predators in 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.
  • Bison calve on their own, without human intervention.
  • 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 NBA Meat Price Analysis  further illustrates this strength and stability.

The NBA also has a thorough database of the latest live bison auction reports from around the country that are available exclusively to NBA members.

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.

As we move into 2020, 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.

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. Our new Producers’ App, developed through the assistance of USDA’s Risk Management Agency, provides a new tool for measuring and monitoring all aspects of your herd.

Meanwhile, our BuySome Bison App, created through assistance from USDA’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, helps connect the public with local bison ranchers selling meat, bison products, and agritourism opportunities.

Additionally, we offer our 40-minute DVD, The Insiders’ Guide to Bison Handling & Management, as a valuable tool that will help newcomers make a smooth transition into our business as well as our Online Bison Training, available exclusively to NBA members.

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, nearly 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. 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 at info@bisoncentral.com,  or by phone at (303) 292-2833, and we’ll you get started.