Find local bison with the Minnesota Grown Directory published by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Our online Directory provides quick access to farm details, links to their website and access to Google Maps driving directions.
Did you know? Minnesota is home to over 100 bison farms and 4,000 animals, ranking us 7th in the nation! If you like red meats, now is a great time to give locally raised bison a try in your next family meal. We spoke with Gail Griffin, a Minnesota Grown bison producer and Mike Lorentz, owner of a locally owned processing facility, to bring you expert information on how and why to enjoy locally raised bison!
Gail Griffin, Rockie Hill Bison Farm
For over twenty years, Gail Griffin and her husband have been raising bison at Rockie Hill Bison Farm in Winona. When we asked Gail about her favorite aspect of raising these animals she shared, “Their herding instincts are amazing to witness from one year to the next. They cover each other’s backs and assure the safety of the herd’s young.” Bison are well suited to the Minnesota climate. In fact, they are made for cold weather! In the winter the length of the hair on their coat measures up to sixteen inches on the forehead, ten on the forelegs and eight inches on the hindquarters. It is no wonder that bison, unlike domestic cattle, face into storms.
Bison are a great option for a new local food experience. Gail shared with us that the bison on their farm usually travel less than 25 miles from farm to fork, as they have a local USDA inspected processing plant nearby and many of their customers live right in Winona! Gail’s favorite way to enjoy bison is a cut of steak or tenderloin prepared simply.
- Bison is a great choice for healthy protein, iron, and vitamin B-12. Bison also has very little fat and less calories per 100 grams than other meat options. Buffalo meat does not marble, and thus cooks quickly.
- Bison can be easily exchanged in recipes with other red meats and Gail shared some of her great bison cooking tips and tricks with us! She says, when cooking bison remember that the meat will experience very little shrinkage during the cooking process. This means you could begin with less meat if swapped pound for pound with beef, or slightly increase the amount of sauce in a recipe.
- Gail recommends using a meat thermometer when preparing bison as on average it takes a third less time to cook this meat compared to beef. For more information on cuts of bison, check out the interactive image provided by The Bison Council!
Buffalo or Bison?
According to the Minnesota Buffalo Association, both are correct (and delicious)! The words buffalo and bison have been used interchangeably when referring to the great North American bison.
How can I purchase bison direct from a Minnesota Grown producer?
1.) Make a connection with a local bison producer near you that sells direct to their consumers. Visit the Minnesota Grown online Directory to find a producer based on town, zip code, or by browsing the map! Or, ask your local food friends! Buying local meat offers a unique opportunity to build connections to both the farmer and processor.
2.) Next, decide on the amount of meat you are interested in. Some producers sell retail cuts directly from their farm or at a local farmers market, but each producer can be different in the way they handle orders. Other producers and processors market livestock as: whole animals, half, quarters, sides, or sometimes even smaller fractions of the animal. Check out our list of 8 Reasons to Stock Up on Locally Raised Meat below!
3.) Chat with the local producer about their offerings. Each producer is unique, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask the producer what their quantity options are. It is important to be comfortable with your producer and processor of choice- go ahead and ask questions, this is the beauty of working one on one with your farmer!
4.) Bring home your locally raised bison meat and enjoy!! If it’s your first time preparing bison, pick a cut of meat you are familiar with. Remember to use a meat thermometer when cooking because bison cooks more quickly!
How is Bison Processed?
Harvesting Minnesota bison is done at a State or USDA inspected meat processing plants. Minnesota stands out by having multiple meat plants throughout the state that are capable of handling bison. This access to inspected meat processing plants allows producers to sell bison meat to schools, restaurants, and other commercial and retail venues.
8 Reasons to Stock Up on Locally Raised Meats:
1. Purchasing locally raised meat supports small and medium sized farmers in your area, contributing to the local economy and the agricultural heritage of Minnesota.
2. Purchasing a quarter or side of bison or beef cultivates creativity in your meals! You will receive cuts of meat you may not normally purchase in the store and using diverse cuts of meat will add variety to your menu while broadening your cooking knowledge.
3. Local meat is processed at peak freshness, coming to you with the best flavor and quality possible.
4. Knowing your local farmer and processor results in high levels of service and quality every step of the way.
5. By purchasing a quarter or side of bison or beef, you are helping solve one of the biggest challenges of supplying meat to consumers on a localized scale. Buying quarters, halves, or fractions of the animal allows small scale producers to be successful and market the entire animal rather than being stocked with large quantities of a specific cut and not enough of another.
6. Meat raised and processed locally travels fewer miles to reach you and results in fewer trips to the store.
7. Buying locally raised and processed meats gives you choices! A local processor can work with you and give you options like cutting steaks to your preferred thickness or packaging burgers into patties or rounds.
8. Build a connection with your community. By purchasing local meats, you are establishing an important connection between you, the consumer, the land on which your meat was raised, and the farmer.
How to begin: