Can You Eat Bison? (Explained)

Bison have been roaming the plains of North America for centuries and have been the main food source for native Americans and later our forefathers for much of that time.

Yes, you can eat bison, its taste is similar to beef, yet it has a slightly better nutritional profile.

Can You Eat Bison?

Bison is a commonly enjoyed meat from both farmed and wild bison. Today, most bison meat that is consumed comes from farmed bison.

However, it was once the case that bison meat was the main sustenance for Native Americans and early Euro-American settlers.

As the sale of game meat is illegal in most of the United States and Canada, many farms have started to farm bison to fulfill a demand for this meat.

Many upscale restaurants sell bison as a luxury alternative to beef, and even some mainstream food markets sell bison in the form of jerky or other snacks.

Can You Eat Bison Rare?

Can You Eat Bison?

Everyone is familiar with the different levels of doneness of beef. So, it’s natural to wonder what other meats this can be applied to.

The good news is that you can eat bison rare, and I recommend trying it if you enjoy your beef rare.

In fact, bison is best served rare, more so than beef; this is due to the lower fat content than beef.

The USDA recommends that bison should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145F for steaks and roasts.

They also suggest that ground bison meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160F.

It should be noted that bison steak cooked to 145F would be considered medium.

However, it should also be noted that this is also the recommended temperature for beef by the USDA, yet people worldwide consume rare beef daily.

Rare beef or bison would be cooked to an internal temperature of 125F-130F.

So the takeaway from this is that although many people do eat bison cooked rare, the USDA does not recommend it, and you should do so at your own risk.

What Does Bison Taste Like?

The taste of bison differs slightly between farmed and wild animals. This is mostly down to diet and lifestyle.

Farmed bison is more akin to beef than wild bison and also has a higher fat percentage.

Wild bison are incredibly hard to come by but by far the tastiest of bison, similar to farmed venison vs. wild venison.

Bison tastes of incredibly succulent beef with a slight sweetness. The texture is better than that of beef and is extremely tender.

However, the older the animal, the tougher the meat becomes. The flavor is still excellent, but it’s likely a lot of the meat will end up as burgers.

The difference between wild, free-ranging, and farmed bison is the depth of taste. Wild bison has the most pronounced taste, while the other two have milder tones.

History of Eating Bison

Can You Eat Bison?

As I mentioned earlier, bison has a long history in America. Bison was a staple food for many Native Americans. 

The meat was often dried to make it lighter to carry; this would be done using wood poles.

The meat would be very similar to modern-day jerky. This would require a lot of maintenance, so native Americans also used another method requiring less maintenance which is smoking.

Smoking meat is still commonly used today. 

Because the Native Americans needed the food for survival in the winter, much of it was preserved.

Methods to preserve are similar to how we preserve meat today:

  • Drying
  • Smoking
  • Pemmican
  • Wasna

Bison was also an important food source for explorers and early settlers. Bison was such a sought-after commodity that, at one stage, they were nearly brought to extinction. 

While much of the reason for this was because of their hides, they still remained an important food source for Native Americans.

Cooking Bison

Bison can be handled much the same way as beef, but consideration should be given to the lower fat percentage.

You can make all the same dishes, but it usually requires less cooking time and, in many cases, less heat.

Because bison has a better flavor profile, it’s often best to use it in simple dishes.

Final Thoughts

Bison is considered one of the finer meats for eating. It has a long history as a food source in America and is considered a delicacy by many.

Bison has a similar taste to beef but with more pronounced flavors and a more tender texture.

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