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Bison vs Beef: What’s the Difference?

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In some corners of the culinary world, a debate about which is better, bison or beef, sizzles on. here at Traeher, we are like the Swiss and take a neautrul stand. Because while meat from a bison vs meat from a cow may seem similar, they have unique characteristics that you'll want to know before you decide which to cook on your Traeger tonight.

Whether you end up siding with Team Beef or Team Bison, get ready to learn more about the differences between these two delicious meats.


Differences Between Bison And Beef

While beef has long been a staple on grills and dinner tables, bison offers a unique and exciting alternative that's worth sinking your teeth into. While bison cuts are cooked simialr to beef cut, there are differences in tappearance, flavor, nutrition, and how they get from farm (or ranch as the case may be) to table.

Appearance

Once you cook beef or bison steak, it's not easy to tell them apart just by looking. It's a bit wasier when comparing them raw. Bison is slightly deeper in color, almost a true red hue. It looks leaner, as well, with no streaky white lines or marbling within the meat. Where there is fat, it’s typically yellow, not white, and is more likely to appear in bison that was corn-fed.

Beef can range in fattiness but usually has at least some white marbling or fat layers. Even the leanest cuts will show thin streaks, and the flesh color isn’t as red.

Flavor

How does bison taste compared to beef? Opinions vary, but bison has a reputation for being slightly sweeter and having a deeper flavor. With all the exercise and grass many bison get, their meat can taste more "earthy" than meat frm cows raised in cattle lots and given corn or mash feed.

If you are used to the fatty marbling found in beef cuts, bison can take some getting used to, but it's neither better-tasting nor worse-tasting. It’s just different and has its own unique flavor profile.

Farming Methods

Bison and cows can both be raised with sustainable methods, but cattle are more likely to be produced in large operations. Bison is considered game, so it's often allowed to move about freely on large parcels of grasslands, but this isn't always the case.

The only way to truly know if your bison meat is raised in a healthy or humane manner is to check out the label or the company producing it. While bison producers stay away from antibiotics and hormones, some beef producers have also been following this trend.


Bison vs Beef Nutrition

Fans of bison claim that it is a healthy meat source, but how does it compare to beef? While they both offer iron and protein, which one stacks up best in fat, cholesterol, calories, and omega-3s? See for yourself in this side-by-side comparison.

Fat Percentage

Wild game and animals allowed to roam freely get more exercise, which can lower the amount of saturated fat in the meat. Saturated fat is the type health professionals are most concerned about, and bison has just .9 grams per 100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of meat vs. beef's 5.58 grams of saturated fat for the same amount. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), even those watching their cholesterol can safely consume up to 6% of their daily calories as saturated fat, which means someone eating 2,000 calories a day should stick to under 13.3 grams. Bison allows a larger serving, as it uses up very little of that daily saturated fat allowance.

Cholesterol

Speaking of cholesterol, it may not be a surprise that bison is lower than beef? While not significantly lower at 82 milligrams vs. 87 milligrams per 100 grams, every bit counts for someone who is watching what they eat.

Calories

If you’re tracking calories, you’ll be pleased to know that you get a lot more on your plate when choosing bison over beef. At just 142 calories per 100-gram serving, bison is much lower in calories than beef (with 235 calories for the same serving.)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Bison has the potential for more omega-3 fatty acids than beef, as this is usually the case for any grass-fed animal such as wild game. Because beef is usually commercially raised with grain, it will have more omega-6, which doesn’t have the same amazing benefits as omega-3. Those looking to get the benefits of omega-3, which has been linked to lower inflammation and better brain health, might look toward bison as a better option.


What About Beefalo?

You’re not limited to choosing between beef and bison anymore. With the development of the “beefalo” breed, the best of both types of meat combined into one. Beefalo animals are 3/8 bison and 5/8 domestic cattle, giving them a bit more beef than bison traits. They’re fed similarly to commercial cattle and will take on the texture and finish of beef.


Preparing And Cooking Bison Meat

Bison can be seasoned, marinated, and cooked much like any beef cut. It welcomes the same culinary notes and is especially tasty when smoked or grilled. Because it has a lower fat content than beef, you’ll have to be careful not to overcook it. Bison dries out very quickly under high heat, so keep an eye on it with your MEATER thermometer, and be sure to adapt any beef recipe with lower cooking temperatures or shorter cooking times (or both).

For those wanting a medium a medium rare bisto steak, take the steak off the heat when it reaches between140°F and 145°F. As with ground beef, ground bison should be cooked to a higher temperature, around 160°F.


Bison Recipes

Bison meat works like beef in many recipes. Feel free to adapt your go-to beef dishes to account for the shorter cooking times and lower temperatures, or skip the guesswork and try these tested dishes from the Traeger Kitchen.

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  • Bison Rib Eye Kabobs: Rosemary and garlic tame the wild flavors of the bison in these mouthwatering kabobs. The lean meat benefits from a savory marinade, so leave some extra time to make this recipe the right way.
  • Mushroom Bison Sliders: Perfectly grilled and nestled between mushroom caps, they are a one-hand wonder certain to liven up your next party.
  • Grilled Bison Sliders: These sliders look like any other beef slider, but they have the added nutrition of bison. Top with your favorite burger toppings, such as cheese, tomato, crisp lettuce, and specialty pickles. Kids and grownups alike will adore them.
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  • Jalapeño Stuffed Bison Burgers: Bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers are nothing new, but have you ever had them inside your burger? These offer cheesy, gooey goodness and a bit of heat, too.
  • Bison Tomahawk Steak: Bring your appetite (and some napkins) for a steak that features just three ingredients and a lot of flavor. It takes just minutes to prepare and cook.
  • Wild Boar Bison Summer Sausage: If you’re lucky enough to have both wild boar and some bison, this recipe is one to try. This recipe makes the most of your favorite wood pellets and will liven up any charcuterie board.
  • Smoked Bison Burgers: Here’s another no-fail bison burger recipe that’s sure to please even the pickiest eaters. While the heaps of caramelized onions make it delicious, bison is the star of the show. Top with your best cheese for even more flavor.

Bison FAQ

What Are Some Other Unique Culinary Uses for Bison Meat?

Bison's distinctive flavor makes it a versatile choice in the kitchen. You can use it to create gourmet burgers, flavorful chili, tender roasts, and even exotic dishes like bison tacos or bison stir-fry. Its unique taste adds a touch of excitement to various culinary creations.

Why Is Bison Meat More Expensive Than Beef?

Bison costs more than beef at most stores for a few reasons. First, there is far less bison available than beef, with just 20,000 bison slaughtered a year compared to the 125,000 beef animals slaughtered each day.

The production process can be more costly, as well, with many bison farmers opting for sustainable, free-range methods that can cost more per animal than what large cattle operations spend to raise beef in confinement. While this can vary, bison breeders use different methods to achieve different results, and this can raise the cost per animal significantly.

Finally, grocers will charge what they think they can get for their products. If people are willing to pay more for bison, expect the price to be higher. Bison isn’t widely accepted, so those seeking it out buy it for flavor, health benefits, and unique gourmet ingredients and so they may be OK with spending more than someone who just wants the cheapest hamburger to put in next week’s meatloaf recipe.

Can I Find Bison Meat Easily in My Local Grocery Store?

Availability can vary depending on your location and the stores in your area. While bison meat may not be as commonly found as beef, it's becoming more accessible as its popularity grows. Consider checking specialty butchers, farmers' markets, or even online retailers for a wider selection of bison meat products.

Smoked Bison Burgers

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

15 Min

Cook Time

35 Min

Serves

4

Pellets

Hickory

Bourbon caramelized onions are piled on top of juicy Traegered bison patties and melty american cheese. Finish this burger off with your favorite toppings for one big, flavorful bite.

Ingredients
main
4 Tablespoonbutter
2 Largeyellow onion, sliced
1 TeaspoonSalt
1 TeaspoonBlack pepper
1 Cupbrown sugar
2/3 Cupbourbon
To TastePepper
3 Poundground bison, 94% lean
8 SlicesAmerican cheese
4 Wholebuns
1 Headbutter lettuce
4 Slicestomatoes
    Steps
  • 1

    Heat the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

  • 2

    Cook onions, stirring occasionally until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the sugar to the pan and remove from heat.

  • 3

    Add the bourbon to the onions and carefully ignite with a long match. Allow flames to die out and then continue to cook until the onions are glazed, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  • 4

    Break the bison up in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide meat and form into eight 4” patties.

  • 5

    When ready to cook, set temperature to High and preheat, lid closed for 15 minutes. For optimal results, set to 450° if available.

  • 6

    Grill burgers 5 minutes per side. The last 2 minutes of cooking, add the cheese to melt and place buns cut side down to toast.

  • 7

    Remove burgers and buns from grill and assemble. Start with the bottom bun, then a burger patty. Add some bourbon onions, another burger patty, more bourbon onions, lettuce, tomato and the top bun.

  • 8

    Serve with condiments of your choice. Enjoy!

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