The growing popularity of bison meat is good news for a family ranch in Dryden.
Mark Anderson's parents bought their first bison in the early 1980s, after a friend suggested he could allocate a portion of their 400-hectares of land to a herd of buffalo.
“After some thought, my father warmed up to the idea and it wasn't long before that that we had some bison trucked in from Wyoming,” he said. “And that was the beginning."
As time went by the herd grew. At one point they had more than 200, but the herd now sits at about 120 animals.
The bison, which are fenced in, aren't a lot of work to take care of, Anderson said. They're very independent and disease resistant. They do very well in the cold temperatures and don't need to be sheltered.
He said the animals have "multiple personalities." They can be very laid back, but if a threat presents itself, they can be aggressive.
Some of them are very friendly — especially the ones that are raised from calves — but because they're so big, one has to be careful. Full grown, buffalo can weigh over 1,100 kilograms. The bulls reach maturity at about age nine, and can live up to 30 years.
"We have raised a few from calf stage to adulthood, and they're like pets. We have one that … stays in the kennel with the dogs,” Anderson said.
Looking to grow distribution
Anderson does most of Northern Buffalo Ranch’s office work, while his brother looks after the herd.
Anderson is also a professional chef, and said buffalo meat is leaner than beef, and it's gaining favour with consumers.
"Bison has become much more popular and in demand because it's organic farming,” he said.
“There are no antibiotics or steroids or nitrates. The meat is all natural. And a lot of people are embracing this meat, because they realize the attributes."
The meat is available locally in Dryden through the Clover Belt Food Co-op, and can be ordered through the Northern Buffalo Ranch website.
Anderson said they'd like to expand and start selling the meat in Thunder Bay, as well as Manitoba.
"It's one step at a time, but things are looking promising in terms of the growth."