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.


  • Posted on by Carolyn

    We have been customers of Wild Idea for almost 3 years and have been very satisfied. Early on we were impressed with the quality of the pacing materials you use: sturdy boxes, lots of insulation we thought that was so smart to take that expenses and care in shipping. We sell and buy on the Internet and I have gotten so tired of how people cut corners in the very basic things which make a business. Now your product, it is economical to eat Buffalo meat since it is very filling, a small steak or fillet goes a long way. The corn based feed which is given to cattle, buffalo and other animals has a lot of sugars which stimulate the appetite and make a person want to eat more. It is unhealthy. Some guidelines I see recommend a serving of 3-5 ounces of meat a serving of red meat. Which is perfect for your petite steaks and fillets. There are ways of shopping to avoid shipping fees: I usually buy a bundle to get free shipping and add a few things or add a few thing up to make 250. Min to get the free shipping as a base.I try to shop more or less quarterly. A large outlay at one time but over the course of that time it works out. I like everything about WildIdea I have less guilt about an animal being slaughtered for my dinner, I like the restoration of the Prairie and I think the whole operation shows it was because it is a coherent whole well thought out operation, humane and kind. Also the essays. My fear is that it will change but I will enjoy using as long as I can. Thanks so much for your business. (sorry this is so long)

  • Posted on by Eve Crispin

    I really appreciate your patience in trying to explain why REAL FOOD costs more, specifically your bison. Our food system is so screwed up and people are so tricked that it is hard for most to understand what the reality is. And, as you point out, there are so many nuances to the equation that most people don’t understand the apples to oranges comparisons they make.
    I prefer to pay the farmer rather than the pharmacy. I prefer to support our earth. I prefer to respect the animals that give their lives to sustain us.
    I thank you and commend you and I hope you keep up your work. I will keep buying your products.

  • Posted on by Donald Gilbert

    Thank you so much for sharing that with us!

  • Posted on by Susan

    The dollars are a lot, but what I am buying from you, when I do, is restoration of the great plains, habitat for birds and other native species, peace of mind, and a healthful meal or two. Ergo, I don’t mind the price. We try to eat less meat for a healthier planet and healthier us, but we are still meat eaters, and Wild Idea meat is worth the price, for all of the above and for the taste. Thank you.

  • Posted on by Denis Harden

    Dan and Jill;

    Quality food may cost a little more but it is worth it in the long run. My wife and I have been purchasing your products because they are healthy as well as tasting great. We appreciate your concern but we know that we are still getting the best for our money.

    Thank you


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