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No To Beefalo

A recent NPR article touts beefalo as “the healthy meat of the future.” Beefalo is a buffalo-cow hybrid ­that represents the latest in the heartbreaking history of the American bison.  For years, speculators have been crossbreeding buffalo with cows and selling the resulting beefalo as a marketing gimmick.  Beefalo producers pay no regard to the harm they do to the genetic diversity of wild buffalo or to the blatant disregard beefalo have for the culture of Native Americans.

Beefalo

Buffalo once numbered up to 60 million before settlers pushed this iconic keystone species to the brink of extinction.  Buffalo provided Native Americans with the gift of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.  As the United States needed more land in the mid 1800’s, men were hired to slaughter the buffalo, often taking the hides and the best meat, leaving the rest of the buffalo to rot.  This extermination of the buffalo weakened the great Native Nations and allowed the U.S. government to force Native Americans to live on reservations, a reduced area of their homelands.  In the early 1900’s, with the population as low as 200 animals, a group of conservation-minded people decided that wild buffalo must be saved.  A small herd was found hiding in the Yellowstone Valley of Montana, and a few head were located in South Dakota and Texas.  These groups were protected, and conservationists rallied to ensure the survival of buffalo as a species.  Today, there are approximately 500,000 buffalo living in the United States and Canada, representing about 1% of pre-extermination levels.
Bison MapTragically, today more than 90% of all buffalo are shipped to industrial feedlots, where they are held in confinement, fed grain, and slaughtered at about 18 months of age.  Nature has designed buffalo to graze over large landscapes and regenerate prairie grasslands.  Forcing buffalo into the cattle feedlot model is unnatural, cruel, and nearly as bad as the extermination of the 1800s. 

Native buffalo are threatened in another way—over the decades, many were bred with domestic cattle to produce a buffalo species with more meat and a docile behavior.  A 2007 study using DNA markers found low amounts of cattle ancestry in conservation herds that were managed as pure buffalo herds.  Conservationists argue that beefalo, which are recognized by the USDA and registered as 3/8 buffalo genetics and 5/8 cattle genetics, are ultimately detrimental to the wild buffalo species and the Great Plains' ecosystems.
Native American Sage Washing
Native Americans are uniting around buffalo as a way to elevate their cultural heritage and provide economic opportunities.  Preserving and protecting the genetic diversity of buffalo is essential to the regeneration of Native American culture.

According to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, 100 grams of buffalo meat contains 109 calories and 1.8 grams of fat.  The same amount of beef contains 291 calories and 24 grams fat.  When buffalo spend their entire lives grazing on a diversity of native grasses, the health of the buffalo and the quality of their meat for human consumption is greatly improved.  Among many others, benefits include polyphonic compounds, tocopherols, carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.  In contrast, less desirable compounds, such as triglycerides, are higher in pen-fed buffalo.  Buffalo finished on rangelands also have much improved markers of metabolic health likely due to the phytochemical richness of their diets and their higher levels of physical activity.  To use a human analogy, muscle tissue from range-fed buffalo is like that of an athlete, while muscle tissue from pen-fed buffalo is more like that of a human with reduced metabolic health, characterized by enhanced mitochondrial, glucose, and fatty acid metabolism.  In summary, grass-fed buffalo have far-reaching health benefits compared to feedlot beef and beefalo.
American Buffalo
For 25 years, Wild Idea Buffalo Co. has regenerated the prairie grasslands, while improving our environment and our food supply by bringing back the buffalo.  By raising and harvesting wild buffalo that spend their entire lives grazing on large landscapes, we have fostered rich biodiversity, stored tons of carbon safely underground, and created myriad economic opportunities for Native Americans.

Wild Idea Buffalo Company
It is our ardent hope that beefalo quickly fades into obscurity and that the resilient and wild buffalo returns to its former glory­—just as nature intended.

Staff writer: Phil Graves
Top Photo Credit: Kyle Young / Other photos: Jill O'Brien

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17 comments

  • NO to beefalo. We are 100% in support of 100% bison treated with dignity and respect that they so deserve. Thank you Wild Idea.

    Jennifer A Kleinrichert
  • It is so sad how these poor animals are treated. No NEVER would I eat Beefalo. We have a Grand Creator who has given us such beautiful animals and He expected us to care for them properly. I do have a native american background and do love all these wonderful animals and it is so hurtful to know how extremely cruel so many people can be. We do appreciate how well you care for your beautiful Buffalo and it was this reason I have ordered from you. Please continue your caring attitude.

    Eleanor Ayers
  • I cant imagine a single reason why a beefalo is an improvement on anything more than a way to confuse the consumer while propping up the commodity beef producers.

    Patrick Stoneking
  • I’d love to hear more detail about why conservationists see beefalo as a threat to the buffalo. I personally am uncomfortable with the mixing of species by our human manipulation.

    Linda C Nelson
  • As a person of Native American heritage I have opposed the marketing of beefalo for the forty years.I was hoping that the dominant society was done insulting buffalo people with this cheap ploy.Ths species (buffalo,I mean) need to be treated with respect and that won’t happen until they are considered as equal nation on a living,breathing earth and not just as a product.I know this requires a major shift in most folks worldview-a hard task,but,listen folks,we’re running out of time.

    steve coyote
  • Thought the beefalo experiment failed years ago. Sad and a little P.O’d, people are still messing with it.

    Former Bison Rancher

    Rick Knobe
  • I agree with your critical comments about the NPR piece on beefalo. I’ve been buying bison from you for years and eat no other red meat. Your bison is so good and the work you are doing is so important.

    Can you tell me the best way to contact NPR about their laudatory and mistaken story?

    Barbara
  • When will humans stop messing with nature? Mixing species is never a good idea. Learn from nature and stop screwing with it. Humans are not smarter and will eventually pay for this nonsense. Sheesh!

    Brynn
  • No Beefalo for me! YUCK!!

    Sherri Wandell
  • Thank you for this article. I had no idea that they were breeding cows with buffalo to create the beefalo. How horrible!!! Your bison is the absolute best!!!!!

    Jeannette Hall
  • I raised beefalo on grass for 12 years and was impressed with their many wild traits, such as small calves, hardiness in cold weather, short grained meat that was tender. No beef should be raised in feedlots, nor should buffalo. Beefalo is not a threat to bison. It’s just another beef animal.

    Sally
  • I say NOOOOO to beefalo!!!!!

    Anne Clare
  • Beefalo is not the answer to healthy red meat if they are put in a feed lot and fed corn. There is no point to this. Let buffalo be natural and grass fed, start to finish. If cattle or buffalo are fully grass fed start to finish, the meat is healthy. Personally, I prefer buffalo and grass fed beef and that is all my family eats.

    Marsha Jarvis
  • Thank you for posting this! I am grateful for the labor and consideration your company invests into producing the best product; the best for humans, the best for the animal, the best for the earth! You are appreciated!!!

    Amy Corliss
  • You pose a threat to big ag industries and that poses many challenges in promotion but I will keep shouting it from the rooftops!

    Troy

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