There’s apparently no better time than now to get into the bison business.

The price of bison meat is on the rise at the same time that beef prices are in a slump, according to the National Bison Association.

Bison are relatively simple to raise, lead long productive lives and thrive in most North American landscapes, says the Colorado-based nonprofit association of bison industry insiders and supporters.

The group touts this as the “Bison Advantage,” the theme of a talk it’s sponsoring at the Black Hills Stock Show on Feb. 2, 1 p.m.

It includes the following points:

  • Bison don’t require artificial shelters like barns, since the animals prefer to be outdoors year-round, no matter the weather;
  • Bison largely calve on their own;
  • Bison don’t require human assistance.

They feed on grasses that are native to the U.S., and are economic foragers. Their grazing practices contribute to maintaining ecological balance.

Bison are very resistant to disease, which means lower veterinary bills. Federal regulations prohibit the use of artificial growth hormones in bison, and the industry limits the use of antibiotics to amounts needed to treat illnesses.

And at a time when consumers are looking for healthier and more sustainable products, bison meat offers an attractive option.

“Our prices are considered to be very strong, and that’s essentially a result of consumer demand for bison meat that’s not being met,” said Jim Matheson, the National Bison Association’s assistant director. Bison carcass currently fetches about $5 a pound compared with $1.75 for beef carcass, he said.

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“We’re in a very good position, which is enviable in the agriculture world today,” said Matheson, who will be discussing the “bison advantage” at the stock show. It apparently is the first time the talk will be presented at the event.

In light of strong demand for bison meat and what industry insiders see as promising prospects, they’re looking for more people to join the business. As of 2012, there were 2,500 bison producers in the U.S., Matheson said, citing the most recent census conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Texas has the biggest number of producers in the county, whereas South Dakota has the largest bison count of any state, Matheson said. 

“We welcome people with open arms,” he said. “We want more people to raise bison.”

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