The Cost of Buffalo Meat

About a month ago, we raised our buffalo meat prices. The costs are driven by supply and demand which affects the market price for buffalo set by the USDA, and also other inflationary costs associated with raising an animal and ending up with a consumer ready - packaged product.

We heard from some of you on this price increase and we also had the opportunity to speak with some of you further, explaining that our price increase was absolutely necessary. We wanted to offer all those interested in knowing the costs of Wild Idea’s buffalo meat, the same transparency. 

The current USDA price for bison meat on the rail (an animal carcass) is $4.80 per pound. This price is based on grain-finished animals, as there are not enough grass animals to have a USDA data baseline. We add a sliding percentage to the USDA price based on animal weight and because of our higher criteria standards, which include; 100% pasture grass-fed/grass-finished, land stewardship through holistic ranch management, and protection of species.


To further understand the costs, it is also important to understand the salable meat of an animal. We typically harvest animals that are between two and three years of age and the weight breaks down to the following:

A 1,000-pound animal = a 500-pound carcass, which = a yield about 340 pounds of salable meat. Of that salable product, 240 pounds of it becomes ground meat. Comparatively you get 6 to 8 pounds of tenderloin, and around 20 pounds of ribeye per animal.

Our insistence of a humane field harvest also requires a separate crew of four to five workers and includes, a truck driver, sharp shooter, and butchers. The carcasses are then transported back to our plant, where a team of artisan meat cutters, sausage makers, and packagers turn those carcasses into consumer-ready, meat products.  Once the product is in the package, there are still two other departments between the product and the consumer; our sales and shipping teams. Plus, there are the expenses necessary to run a business.

Anyone who has ever been in the food industry knows that it is one of the lowest margin businesses in the world. And, even though we consumers spend  20+% less on food than what we did 70 years ago, we ironically still have strong opinions about it. We also get excited when food is cheap: “Five for a dollar!” “Eight bucks a pound!” “Buy one get one free!” We keep our focus on the upfront cost, without looking at the back-end costs of; prairie plow up, species loss, unhealthy soil and water, unhealthy animals, unhealthy food, and so on. The IOU is coming, and someone will have to pay.

Still, it is difficult to wrap our minds around food costs. Recently we received this question, “I just don’t get it, if you don’t have all of those inputs of additional feeds and corn, or, trucking to slaughter facilities, or hauling food to the animals, and your animals are just walking around eating grass, why is your meat more expensive?” Fair enough question. First, the feeds are subsidized by you the taxpayer. Second, for all the reasons mentioned above. And third, you must consider the land health and the land cost. Dan states, “When I bought my first ranch in South Dakota in 1970, the cost of land was $270.00 an acre. When I bought the first chunk of ground on our current ranch it was $400.00 an acre and now land is going for over $1,000.00 an acre. On the Great Plains mixed grass prairies, it takes about 35 acres per buffalo.  The only way to bring back the buffalo is to grow our land base. For me this is about conserving and protecting a threatened ecosystem. We simply can’t afford to lose our prairies.”

We should also be reminded that 90% of the buffalo meat that is raised for our food supply is finished in the cattle feedlot system. To compare these two different end products is like comparing apples to oranges. And, not just in taste, but also in the trickle down affects it has on the health of the land, water, animals, our food supply, and us.

At Wild Idea we take your comments and complaints very seriously and always try to make it right by you, as we know you have taken the time to sustainably source your food and that you have paid a fair price for the product.

We are very aware that we have a product that is not cheap and we are listening to you. Although a price increase was absolutely needed to keep our company going, we are trying to figure out how we can offer you a break without it breaking us.

We do occasionally offer bundles with free shipping and discounts when we can. So - if you have moved away from us due to price, we hope you stay connected - as there may be an offer that works for you. 

Our ground buffalo meat products are super user friendly and a must have staple that can be turned into so many delicious & healthy meals.

Please know that we will continue to do our best for you in every way, including pricing. We truly appreciate your support, not just for our company, but also for caring where and how your food is raised. Together, we can make a difference, one bite at a time.  Thank you.

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  • I appreciate your transparency and support what you are doing. That being said, whever I see a justification of “supply and demand” for an increase, it comes across as “because we can” and begins to undermine the integrity of the argument. As I said, I am a fan and supporter and I believe your rationalization stands up well without the sales jargon. Just a perspective from a brander.

    Doug Studer
  • Thanks for your illuminating explanation. Love what you are doing there on the prairie. Had placed my second order a few days ago.

    Keep up the good (great) work.


    Bruce Green
  • I don’t know how to post on your blog but I wanted you to know I understand completely your need to raise prices. your product to me is so far and above anything because of your treatment of the animals and the plains. I did not eat meat for 25 years, yours is the only meat I will eat. I hope you can sustain what your doing ! someone in the country has to care about our world:)

    conni borwick
  • If some how you could have cheaper shipping rates, that would help.

    Mark Holloway
  • Dan, Jiill and all,
    You will always have my support in every way. I totally believe in your philosophy and your product. You make the world a better place for us all.
    Keep up the good work.

    Michael Huwaldt
  • This is very interesting. Thank you for the explanation. I have hesitated on buying from you due to cost but when I read your story, it makes me more interested in supporting your business. Keep up the good work.

    John Hershey
  • A well-done, calm and compelling explanation. I would like to use that chart in a presentation but folks will ask, “What is the source of that data?” Fair question. I want to preclude that by including the source right on the chart I am making. Can you help me out? Thanks.

    Scott Sedam
  • It is all about the education, and you are real educators.
    From the written word to the photographic essays and including us in the Wild Idea Buffalo family, we, your customers are invested in you, the mission and the philosophy behind Wild Idea because of the purity of the messaging.
    Stay true,

    Toni Hamner
  • Dan & Jill
    Thanks for taking the time to present the information associated with raising a grass fed product vs a grain fed product. You can most certainly feel the difference and I can taste the difference. I have been and will continue to be a customer.
    Bill O’Brien

    Bill O'Brien
  • I get it and appreciate your explanation. However, the prices have now caused me to cut back. For example, I have been buying your 5 oz sirloins. They used to be about $10 each. Now about $13. I’m retired and don’t have a huge asset base or income stream. So I will be going for the lowest priced items and buy less of the rest. Buffalo isn’t the only meat I eat but is mainly any red meat I eat. I’m sure there will be others who will make up the difference.

  • I appreciate so much your detailed explanation of what it takes to get your buffalo to my table. It IS expensive, but worth every penny in a tender, delicious, pure product. As a person who worked in the restoration of woodlands, wetlands and prairies, I know how important it is to ensure that these ecosystems are protected and used in the manner in which they were for many, many years before we arrived on the scene. Thanks for restoring the prairie, thanks for reintroducing the buffalo to sustain the prairie, and thanks for Wild Idea Buffalo.

    Liz Aicher
  • Our food is only cheap when we pass the true costs onto the environment, not to mention the inhumane costs put on the backs of those who labor in meat-packing plants or our fields. I am glad to see the chart showing how food costs are way down from decades ago. And,hmmmm, health care costs are up—suppose there ia any link there? The best medicine you can take is food raised organically and holistically.

    Linda Clark
  • Thank you for your integrity.

    Sue Thomas
  • Wholeheartedly expressed! Thank you for sharing such poignant truths. Your products are still the best deal around!

    Anthony Earthen
  • Great article, thank you. Naturally-produced meat is more expensive, but also more dear. Grass fed flesh is different food than standard, restaurant burger. Those animals are unnaturally fed in giant lots, the animals dosed with heavy doses of antibiotics, standing around on hills of their own waste. There is a reason that photographing a large slaughter house is illegal – their practices are unethical and not safe.

    I have a background on a cattle ranch in Bennett County, and the experience made me seek grass fed beef and buffalo. Wild Ideas has the best product on the market. Better for one’s health than prescription meds and vitamins, I am here to attest. I will continue to shop Wild Ideas and rest assured knowing that your claims are true. Trust in a merchant is critical. I know you’re not cutting corners in the raising or processing of your animals, and it keeps me coming back.

    Well, I better get my pot of chili started, the recipe based on – what else? – a pound of lean grind buffalo burger!

    Dan Page

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