With people on the lookout for healthy protein options, one type of meat has been making headlines recently: bison. Called "America's original red meat,"1 bison is becoming popular among people who are looking for alternatives to grass fed beef, and bison matches up perfectly — it's lean, organic and sustainable. And the great news is it's also good for your pets!
What Is Bison Meat, and What Does It Taste Like?
Bison meat can be a nutritious treat or a component of a homemade diet, in conjunction with other ingredients that comprise a nutritionally complete meal. This protein comes from bison, which are bearded, heavy land animals indigenous to the Great Plains of North America. They are grazers that feed on grasses, twigs, shrubs and herbs.2 However, they are often mistakenly called buffaloes, which are actually a different type of animal, though these two do belong to the same animal family (Bovidae).3
Cooking Light describes bison meat as "lighter, coarser, and tastes slightly sweeter," compared to beef, without any gamey flavor or an aftertaste.4 Nutrient wise, it's slightly superior to beef too,5 which is why this healthy, human-grade food will make a fantastic treat for pets.
One common myth about bison meat is that it's harder to cook than other meats. The truth is, bison is easier and quicker to cook than most meats, including beef. And because bison has less fat than beef, it cooks slightly faster.6
When fed as a snack, bison can constitute up to 10% of your dog's or cat's daily caloric intake. Since very few pet foods use bison in their composition, it's considered a novel protein source for dogs, especially those who have allergies to common proteins like beef and chicken. This is why bison is a main protein recommended in some limited ingredient diets.7
Make Sure You Purchase High-Quality Grass Fed Bison Meat
When you purchase bison, make sure it's labeled "wild" and "grass fed," as some manufacturers are commercially raising these animals in concentrated feedlots, which may compromise their quality.8
In addition, purchasing wild and grass fed bison ensures that you're getting a product that's produced by ranchers that adhere to strict guidelines that help protect the ecosystem. According to Dave Carter of the National Bison Association:
"As a part of that philosophy, we don't use artificial insemination, castration, or other procedures widely used with domesticated livestock. Federal regulations prohibit added growth hormones in bison, and our Code of Ethics prohibit antibiotics to promote growth."
Bison Meat Is a Rich Source of Protein
According to the website Dog Food Guide, bison is a leaner protein source compared to beef and other meats that are raised commercially, making it a great ingredient for making wholesome snacks and treats for your pets. Bison's protein content is slightly higher than grass fed beef, at 2.65 grams per 1-tablespoon serving, compared to beef's 2.46 grams per 1-tablespoon serving.10,11 It's also healthier, as the animals are traditionally ranch-raised and are not given growth hormones and antibiotics,12 unlike meats from livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Your Pet Can Get Omega-3s From Bison Meat
Bison meat can also give your pets omega-3 fats, and as with grass fed beef, grass fed varieties of this meat offer more omega-3 fats than conventional beef.13 Omega-3 fatty acids offer a number of benefits for pets, such as aiding proper development of the retina and visual cortex, alleviating allergies brought on by an overactive immune response and regulating blood clotting activity.
Of course, bison isn't the only food plentiful in omega-3s; other wonderful sources that score even higher include salmon, fatty fish and krill oil. Read this article for more information on omega-3s for pets.
Other Nutrients Found in Bison Meat
Nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron and magnesium are also found in bison. In dogs, zinc is essential for various functions like carbohydrate and protein metabolism, wound healing and optimizing enzyme reactions and cell replication, while potassium is needed for "nerve impulse transmission and transport functions."14
Meanwhile magnesium, for humans, is essential for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including immune system, nerve and muscle function and bone health, to name a few. These same benefits may also be acquired by pets from this valuable mineral.15,16 Iron, on the other hand, is vital for metabolic functions. For pets, its most important use is for transporting oxygen in the blood. It's also essential for enzymes needed for drug metabolism and energy production.
Bison Meat Is a Good Choice for Pets With Food Allergies
Bison treats may be ideal for dogs with food sensitivity or allergies. According to PetfoodIndustry.com's database, 58 dog and cat food brands make use of this meat.18 If you plan on making your own homemade treats, fresh raw bison meat gives you more freedom to experiment on healthy recipes.
Try This Bison Healthy Treat Recipe for Your Pets
Chia Chunks Pet Treats
✓ Chia seeds
✓ Free range, grass fed bison
- Cut meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Roll in chia seeds.
- Place on ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.
- Let cool and store in your refrigerator for up to a week or in your freezer for a month.
Additional Bison Meat Storage Tips
If you have leftover uncooked bison meat, make sure to store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Ground meat can be used for up to two days, while steaks and roasts can stay fresh for four days.
When frozen, bison meat can be used longer, up to 12 months, as long as it's packaged properly. Seal it tightly in foil, freezer paper or polyethylene film. You can cook it frozen, but you'll have to add one-third to one-half to the cooking time.19