INTRODUCTION / BACKGROUND
The Great Plains once stretched as a vast sea of grass across the center of the North American continent. The American buffalo was the predominant grazer of these vast grasslands in numbers often reported to stretch from horizon to horizon.
Buffalo were uniquely adapted to life on both the short and the tall grass prairies and in the 1700's they could be found ranging from the Western prairies to the grassland areas of the Central states and the East. Their adaptability to their environment and their efficient use of native grasses and forbs enabled them to flourish in the vast numbers, which astonished early explorers and settlers. Their dense coat of hair enabled them to withstand bitter cold and icy winds. Even in the midst of a blizzard, they would brush away the snow with their massive heads to eat the grass beneath and would use the snow as a source of water. Buffalo metabolism slows in winter allowing survival on meager food supplies. Their ability to withstand and thrive with all that nature presented did not however enable them to withstand the onslaught of Westward expansion.
Today people are working to re-establish buffalo to a prominent place on grasslands landscapes and to gain recognition of buffalo as an important economic resource within the livestock industry. Nutritional studies indicating the low fat content of buffalo meat, and specifically the Omega 3 fatty acid profile of GRASS fed buffalo meat, are also catching the attention of an increasingly health conscious public.
More and more ranchers and farmers are becoming interested in re-introducing the plains buffalo, or Bison bison bison as they are more scientifically known, back onto the grasslands for which they were so well adapted by nature. Many buffalo raisers are finding themselves caught up in a rapidly expanding market and a growing demand for buffalo as many more ranchers, farmers and outside investors are realizing the advantages of raising buffalo over cattle and are becoming interested in entering the buffalo industry. Many buffalo raisers who once kept smaller private herds are also now finding opportunities to expand. The increasing demand for meat, by-products, and breeding stock promises a continued strong market for the buffalo industry in the future.
Along with this expansion, however, has come a growing concern among many producers that there has developed a shift in the approach to raising and feeding buffalo which is following many of the mistakes of the cattle industry. In cattle livestock management which has favored a "bigger is better" approach, intensive breeding manipulation, and intensive management, a host of problems has been created, including loss of vitality, animal health problems, calving problems, high production costs, and hormonal additives and high fat content in meat. Adding fat back into buffalo burger is becoming a more widespread practice. Pure ground buffalo meat is 97% lean.
There are many buffalo producers who are concerned and do not want the buffalo industry to repeat many of those same mistakes, yet there seems to be a growing trend toward applying more and more of those same practices which have led to many of the above problems.
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