Worried about mad cow? Try buffalo
By T.C. MITCHELL
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: February 4, 2004)
One of the local grocery chains advertised buffalo meat recently. Chain stores here occasionally offer the meat, but never on a daily basis could you find the bison cuts. For that you would need to go to other retail outlets such as The Natural Pantry or Alaskan Game & Gourmet.
The timing of the ad, though, seemed perfect as many people continue to fret over the safety of commercially processed beef.
Buffalo ranchers, including several in Alaska, have long touted the American icon's health benefits with marginal success. Until now. Just before Christmas, a cow was discovered in Washington with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, popularly known as "mad cow disease."
Because bison are commonly free-range animals, and anybody who has worked with them will tell you, they're pretty headstrong about staying that way. Pens and corrals don't agree with their roaming nature.
So it's natural for people who still want to eat red meat to turn to buffalo for their steaks or burgers. It's common knowledge that buffalo meat, like wild game, is leaner than beef. What many consumers might not know is the side benefit of better nutrition. Atkins and South Beach followers should be lining up at their local buffalo store.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional database, buffalo meat has less fat (2.42 grams per 3.5-ounce serving) than beef (9.3), pork (10.5) and skinless chicken (7.41). Counting calories? That same serving of buffalo has 143 calories compared to 211 for beef, 215 for pork and 190 for chicken.
And those seeking iron in their diet will find it slightly better in buffalo than in beef and three times better than in pork or chicken.
The database says that one serving provides 34 percent of the daily recommended amounts of protein, 32 percent of zinc, 33 percent of iron, 10 percent of niacin, 20 percent of phosphorus, 14 percent of vitamin B6 and 42 percent of the antioxidant selenium. It also notes that bison meat is non-allergenic, making it easier to digest by people with a red meat intolerance.
Proponents also argue that because the meat is leaner, thus more dense, it sates appetites better, causing people to require less in the way of portions.
Like wild game, though, there are tricks to cooking buffalo because the meat has little or no marbling (those streaks of fat found in beef).
To avoid overcooking, www.healthybuffalo.com
tells home cooks not to cook the meat's outside fat. Trim off any fat. After that, slow and low is the key to cooking lean meat. You can cook buffalo to the same doneness you like in beef, but well-done is not recommended. Also, the cuts are virtually the same as on a beef so it interchanges easily with beef ingredients.