I like knowing that by buying and eating buffalo I’m supporting one of the last remnants of wild food on the American continent. I like the wild, untamed nature of the animals, their rugged character, and toughness. They stand in stark contrast to the rest of our cultivated diet.
Buffalo, what’s in it for you?
Ounce for ounce buffalo meat contains 69% more iron than beef and slightly more protein than beef. Everyone can benefit from eating bison on regular basis to prevent or rectify iron deficiency anemia. Men, women, children, and former vegetarians and vegans can benefit from is tonifying food. Like beef, bison is a great source of B-vitamins, zinc, and other brain and body-building nutrients that are poorly supplies and poorly absorbed from plant foods.
Photo right by Rachel Albert-Matesz, © Copyright 2009
Cholesterol, a non-issue
Although buffalo is promoted as a lower cholesterol meat, that’s a bit of misnomer. A 100 gram serving (3 1/2 ounces) of buffalo contains approximately 82 milligrams of cholesterol whereas the same size portion of beef (or pork) contains 86 milligrams. The difference of 4 milligrams is hardly signfificant. (That’s 0.0002% of what most bodies produces in a day!)
Now you may be wondering why eat cholesterol if you body can make it? Although your body can manufacture cholesterol, it is actually better to obtain it from dietary sources. Traditional human diets have always contained significant amounts of cholesterol.
To find out why your life depends on cholesterol, click here.
According to Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS,CNT, author of Primal Body––Primal Mind, “Restricting or eliminating its [cholesterol] intake indicates a crisis or famine to the body. The result is the production of a liver enzyme called HMG-COA reductase, that in effect, then overproduces cholesterol from carbohydrates in the diet. Consuming excess carbohydrates while decreasing cholesterol intake guarantees a steady overproduction of cholesterol in the body.”
“The only way to switch this over production off is to consume an adequate amount of dietary cholesterol and back off on the carbs. In other words, the dietary intake of cholesterol stops the internal production of cholesterol. (Schwarzbein, 1999).”
Back to the Buffalo
Buffalo is usually lower in fat than beef. The specific fat content of a particular cut of buffalo will depend on upon the particular animal, its diet age at the time of slaughter, and how much fat is trimmed from the carcass or cut you buy.
The lean of the land?
USDA handbook data includes comparisons showing a 100 gram (3 1/2 ounce) portion of beef at 9.28 to 14 grams of fat and the same size portion of buffalo at 2.42 grams of fat. However, I’ve seen 6 ounce (128 gram) buffalo burgers in gourmet markets boasting 30 grams of fat (ground meat may contain more fat if it’s processed with trim from the rest of the carcass, particularly if it was not 100% grassfed). However, fat isn’t bad.
Eating more fat and protein and less carbohydrate can provide many health benefits. Still most buffalo on the market, particularly if grassfed, will contain significantly less fat than factory farmed beef.
For the pictures on the right, I used a small buffalo steak from Arizona Buffalo Company, located in Buckeye, Arizona. It turned out really great. Although it was a lean steak, I found it easy to cut and easy to chew.
Buy local whenever you can
When I buy meat, or anything else, I support small local farmer means and help them stay in business. I reduce fuel use because my food doesn’t log thousands of miles to reach me. I cut out the middle man. I usually save money, and have contact with the people who are raising my food. I much prefer this to buying anonymous meat whenever I can, although I’m flexible in this respect. I don’t think it has to be all or nothing.
How to cook a buffalo
Cook it one piece at a time. As with grassfed been and other lean, wild, or game meats, you’ll get the best results cooking steaks, roasts, and burgers, rare or medium rare. Well done will be overdone, tough, dry, and leathery. Reduce the cooking time, the temperature, or both to produce the best results. And don’t rush a roast, long slow cooking is required for certain cuts to make t hem moist and tender. Marinades help with some cuts.
How does it taste?
I like the flavor. You might expect buffalo to taste gamey and have a tough texture, but I find it tender and juicy (as long it’s not overcooked), with a slightly sweet undertone. I like to sear the steaks on both sides and leave them blood red on the inside. You’ll notice buffalo meet has a deeper, darker, redder color than beef. Stay close and remove it from the heat when it’s under done, so you don’t lose all that color in cooking.
If I had a chest freezer (or room for one) I would consider stocking up on buffalo, particularly buffalo grown in my own state on a small family-ownded and operated ranch, such as Arizona Buffalo Company.
Although I’m partial to 100% grassfed meat, I don't shun buffalo fed grain, particularly if it comes from ranchers who belong to the National Bison Association. I think buying buffalo is good for people, the continuation of the (buffalo and human) species, and the planet. Read my previous posts on grassfed meat to learn how pasture-raising ruminant animals actually improve the land and our air, contrary to what you might hear from environmental extremists.
Eat it, save it
Historically people who eat a food are more likely to preserve it than those who don’t. Deer hunters are more likely to preserve deer than people who don’t hunt and eat them. The Native Americans were better and conserving buffalo than the pale-faced hide hunters who didn’t eat the meat. Instead they ruthlessly reduced buffalo herds from tens of millions to about 1000 in 1885. Lucky for us, the outcries of individulas and organized groups has let to the preservation and restoration of small herds of these magnificent beasts.
According to the other NBA (the National Bison Association) more than 3000 people are raising more than 270,000 buffalo today. They would not be raised in these numbers nor would they receive the attention or have the support they do if people were not raising them for food. Eating buffalo helps preserve what was once an almost extinct species.
Steak with Cumin & Mustard Rub
Prep: 10 minutes/ Cooking: 8 to 25 minutes/Yield: about 5 servings
This is my favorite way to season and cook steak. It combines three great spices that add immense flavor and antioxidants. I like to leave any visible fat on the steaks. It adds moisture, particularly with lean cuts of meat. (The fat in beef is preferable, from a health standpoint, to the fat in vegetable oils.) I round out the meal with cooked leafy greens or a crisp green salad with a side of fresh fruit.
For a smaller piece of meat, reduce seasonings and cooking time as needed. I used an 8-ounce buffalo steak, which took only about 2 or 3 minutes per side to come out rare.
Press Test: To test meat, hang your hand by your side. Rare meat will feel flaccid, like the web between your thumb and forefinger. Make a a loose fist and press again; that’s medium-rare. Make a tight fist and press into the web; that’s what well-done (really overdone) feels like.
1 1/2 pounds boneless or 2 pounds bone-in beef or bison/buffalo steak (at least 1-inch thick):
sirloin, tenderloin, fillet, NY strip, top loin, round tip, flank, London Broil, rib-eye, T-bone, porterhouse, club or sandwich steak, or other cut
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt, optional
1 tablespoon ground cumin, or as needed to coat
1 tablespoons ground dry mustard (powder), or as needed to coat
½ to 1 tablespoon coconut oil, non-hydrogenated palm shortening, avocado oil, or virgin olive oil
1. Preheat a medium-hot gas grill or preheat broiler. If using broiler, position a broiling rack 2 to 3 inches from heat source for 3/4-inch thick steaks, 3 to 4 inches for 1- to 1 1/2-inch thick steaks, 4 to 6 inches for 1 1/2- to 2-inch thick steaks.
2. Pat steaks dry. Lightly sprinkle both sides with sea salt and pepper. Rub the seasonings in with the back of a spoon. Liberally sprinkle one side with cumin and rub in with the back of a spoon. Turn and repeat with mustard on the second side. If time permits, let meat rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, or cover loosely with parchment and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
3. If using an electric oven or toaster oven, add 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the broiler pan (under the meat tray that has holes in it). The liquid should not touch the bottom of the meat rack. Lighlty mist, brush, or rub the steaks with oil. During cooking, leave the door of an electric oven ajar.
If grilling, place meat on hot grill.
4. Grill or broil steaks, turning them after the halfway point. To test for doneness, make a small slit in the steak and check the center. The interior should be slighlty less done than desired; the steaks will continue cooking after you remove them from the heat.
5. Allow steaks to rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle, then slice and serve, or refrigerate for later. Deposit bones in a bag in the freezer for making broth or stock. Consume leftovers within 3 days.
* To cook steak(s) in a skillet: Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of fat or oil to a hot cast iron or heavy stainless steel skillet over medium heat for 1 steak. Add steak. Sear one side for 2 to 4 minutes, depending upon thickness, then repeat on the second side cooking to desired doneness. Repeat with second steak as/if desired.