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Men's Health

July 2013

Bison: Give It a Grill

To many people, grilling signifies summer. Favored spoils of the season: steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs. You may also want to toss some bison on those grates. Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, it may be a healthier alternative to other red meats.

A better red-meat option

Many Americans pile their plates with beef, pork, and lamb. But all that red meat may not be good for us. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed the eating habits of nearly 550,000 older adults for 10 years. Researchers found that people who ate more red meat didn't live as long. They were also more likely to die from cancer and heart disease.

Photo of man cooking food on an outdoor grill

Based on such science, experts, including the American Heart Association, recommend limiting your intake of red meat. It's high in saturated fat and cholesterol-two key ingredients for heart disease.

Not so with bison, though. Compared with other red meats, bison has fewer calories and less cholesterol and fat. In fact, a quarter-pound bison burger-minus the bun and condiments-contains only 2 grams of total fat and less than a gram of saturated fat. A similar-sized beef burger has more than 17 grams of total fat and nearly 7 grams of saturated fat.

A recent study in the journal Nutrition Research may further confirm bison's healthier pedigree. Researchers compared cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as other vascular health measurements, in a small group of people who ate either beef or bison. After only one meal, those who ate bison had less of an increase in triglyceride levels. Over a seven-week period of eating either meat, bison did little harm to vascular health.

Cooking tips for bison

Bison is a type of game meat. Compared with beef, it's redder in color and has less marbling because of its lower fat content. It also has a sweeter and richer flavor. Plus, unlike many cattle that are fattened in feedlots with grain, bison are often grass fed. They also aren't typically given antibiotics or hormones.

When cooking bison, treat it like any similar cut of beef. Below are some tips on coaxing the best flavor out of this lean meat:

  • Cook bison at a lower temperature for longer. Because the meat has little fat, it can quickly become overdone.

  • Check the temperature before eating. Ground bison should be cooked to 160 degrees F (71 degrees C), steaks and roasts to at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). For a three-quarter inch steak, grill each side about six to seven minutes. Let the meat rest for several minutes before cutting.

  • Soak first if you want to minimize the gamey flavor. A simple solution of 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1 quart of cold water works well on steaks and roasts. Cover meat completely with the solution and refrigerate overnight.

  • Braise or marinate less tender cuts. Stews are perfect for cut-up bits of bison.

  • Freeze any uncooked bison meat within two days after buying. Frozen ground meat is best when used within four months. Steaks and other large pieces will keep well up to nine months.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.


Click here for some healthy grilling tips. 


Online Resources

National Bison Association

USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service - Bison from Farm to Table


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