Nutritional Information of Bison



Bison is a highly nutritious and delicious heart healthy meat.  This tasty meat is low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and yet high in selenium, vitamin B-12, zinc, Omega-3 Oil, and iron.  These characteristics make this meat a great choice for the most health conscious consumer.

Our animals are 99% grass fed, for optimum nutritional value.  We do not give our animals any hormones, growth enhancers, or any chemicals that would alter the taste or cause allergies in humans.  When people talk about grain fed animals, they are usually talking about in feedlots and have a strict diet of grain.  We only give our animals a very small amount of grain, which makes it easier to work with them when sorting them, tagging them, etc..  Below is a study listed by M. J. Machello of North Dakota State University and J. A. Driskell of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln showing the nutrient contents of bison meat from grass and grain finished bison.  This will give you an understanding of the differences in grass and grain fed animals. 


Nutrient Content of Bison Meat from Grass- and Grain-Finished Bulls

M. J. Marchello1 and J. A. Driskell2
Animal and Range Sciences Department, North Dakota State University, Fargo; and
2Nutritional Science and Dietetics University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Consumers are eating bison meat as an alternative meat. Approximately 300,000 bison (Bison bison) are being raised for meat production in North America according to Sam Albrecht, Executive Director of the National Bison Association. Bison meat does provide nutrients to meet some of the nutritional needs of humans. Some controversy exists regarding the nutritive quality of grass- and grain-finished bison. The data which exist as to the nutrient content of meat from grass- and grain-finished bison are given in this paper. More detailed descriptions of the research from which these data are derived have been published.1-4

Shoulder clod (Triceps brachii), ribeye (Longissimus thoracis), top round (semimembranosus), and top sirloin (Gluteus medius) cuts were obtained from bulls. These cuts came from 31 grass-finished (average age = 32 months) and 100 grain-finished (average age = 24 months) bulls that were raised in various regions of the United States and Canada (Table 1). This should be representative of the bison meat that is available to consumers. Few differences in nutrient content were observed between the four cuts from grass-finished bulls;4 the same was true for the grain-finished.1-3 Therefore, the nutrient content of these four cuts were averaged.

The macronutrient and food energy content of meat from grass- and grain-finished bison bulls is given in Table 2. Comments regarding the nutritional content5-12 of this meat are also listed in Table 2. The functions of these macronutrients and food energy are discussed in detail elsewhere.12

The vitamin and mineral (micronutrients) content of meat from grass- and grain-finished bison bulls is given in Table 3. Comments regarding the nutritional content5-7,9,10,12-15 of this meat are also listed in Table 3. The functions of these micronutrients are discussed in detail elsewhere.12

All of these nutrient content assays were done on raw or uncooked meat. This is the usual method for presenting such data in that consumers cook their meats in different ways and to different degrees of doneness. Moisture is lost during cooking, thus increasing the concentrations of minerals and protein in the cooked meat. The vitamin content of meat is decreased following cooking, with water-soluble vitamins, such as thiamin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, being about two-thirds retained and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin E, about three-fourths retained.16 This same pattern has been observed in the cooking of meat from other species such as beef.16

The information given in the tables may be useful for nutritional labeling, though labeling is not required for fresh meat. Utilizing these data, producers can provide consumers with Nutrition Fact information. Based on current research only minimal differences exist in the nutrient content of meat from bison that have been finished on grass and those finished on grain. However, more research is needed, especially controlled feeding studies. It is important that the industry speak with one voice to consumers about the nutrient content of bison meat. Consumers frequently are more interested in how bison meat compares with meat from beef, pork, or poultry, and it compares well. Research indicates that bison meat contains many nutrients which are essential to human life and health.


1Marchello, M.J., Slanger, W.D., Hadley, M., Milne, D.B., Driskell, J.A. Nutrient composition of bison fed concentrate diets. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 11:231;1998.

2Driskell, J.A., Yuan X., Giraud D.W., Hadley, M., Marchello, M.J. Concentrations of selected vitamins and selenium in bison cuts. Journal of Animal Science 75:2950;1997.

3Driskell, J.A., Marchello, M.J., Giraud, D.W. Riboflavin and niacin concentrations of bison cuts. Journal of Animal Science, in press.

4Marchello, M.J., Driskell, J.A. Nutrient composition of grass- and grain-finished bison. Great Plains Research, in press.

5Food and Drug Administration. Food Labeling: Reference Daily Intakes and Daily Reference Values. Food Register October 29, 1992 (58 FR 2206).

6Food and Drug Administration. Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims, General Principles, Petitions, Definitions of Terms; Definitions of Nutrient Content Claims for the Fat, Fatty Acid, and Cholesterol Content of Food. Federal Register December 17, 1992 (58 FR 2302).

7Committee on Diet and Health, Food and Nutrition Board, National Research Council. Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1989.

8American Heart Association. Dietary guidelines for healthy American adults: A statement for physicians and health professionals by the Nutrition Committee. Circulation 7:721A;1988.

9Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States, Vol. 1-2. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office; 1995.

10Subcommittee on the 10th Edition of the RDAs, Food and Nutrition Board, National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1989.

11Neuringer, M., Conner, W.E. n-3 fatty acids in the brain and retina: evidence for their essentiality. Nutrition Reviews 44:285;1986.

12Spallholz, J.E., Boylan, L.M., Driskell, J.A. Nutrition: Chemistry and Biology, 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press; 1999.

13Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1999.

14Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.

15Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2000.

16Yuan, X., Marchello, M.J., Driskell, J.A. Selected vitamin contents and retentions in bison patties as related to cooking method. Journal of Food Science 64:462;1999.


State/Province                                                        Grass                    Grain

Alberta                                                                           -                          24

British Columbia                                                             -                            6

California                                                                       -                            6

Colorado                                                                       1                            3

Delaware                                                                       -                             1

Kansas                                                                          8                            17

Manitoba                                                                        -                             6

Michigan                                                                        -                             3

Missouri                                                                         -                             3

Nebraska                                                                       5                             -

North Dakota                                                                 2                            14

South Dakota                                                                 5                            15

Texas                                                                              3                             -

Wisconsin                                                                       7                             -

Wyoming                                                                        -                              4

Total                                                                            31                           100




Nutrient                              Grass                  Grain            Nutritional Commentsa

Protein (%)                            21.5                    21.7             Excellent source of protein

Moisture (%)                         75.9                    74.6             Typical of most meats

Fat (%)                                    1.7                      2.2             Low in fat
                                                                                             Low intakes associated with
                                                                                             decreased incidence of heart
                                                                                             disease & cancer
                                                                                              Diet should contain <30% of calories

Saturated Fat                          47.4                     42.5           Low intakes associated with (% of
                                                                                             fat) decreased incidence of heart
                                                                                             disease & cancer

Monounsaturated Fat              35.4                     46.5            Higher proportion associated with
                                                                                              (% of fat) decreased incidence of
                                                                                               heart disease & cancer

Oleic acid                                34.0                     42.7            Higher proportion perhaps
                                                                                               associated (% of fat) with decreased
                                                                                               incidence of heart disease

Polyunsaturated Fat                  17.2                      11.0          Higher proportion associated with
                                                                                               (% of fat) decreased incidence of
                                                                                               heart disease & cancer

Linoleic Acid                            13.8                      10.5          Recommended ω-6:ω-3 intake is
                                                                                               (% of fat) 4-10:1 (ω-6)

Linolenic Acid                             3.4                       0.5           (ω-3) (% of fat)

Ash (%)                                      1.2                       1.2           Reflective of total mineral content

Cholesterol                                   65                        66          Lean meat (mg/100 g) Low intakes
                                                                                               associated with decreased
                                                                                               incidence of heart disease & cancer

Food Energy                                133                       141        Relatively low in calories
                                                                                                (kcal/100 g)

Note: Recommended ratio of saturated:monounsaturated:polyunsaturated fats is 1:1:1 with <10% of calories from each

aReferences 5-12.


TABLE 3. Comparison of the Vitamin and Mineral Content of Raw Separable Lean from Grass- vs. Grain-Finished Bison

                                                                                                                                       Mean %
                                                                                                                                      Daily Valueb

Mineral                            Grass   Grain     Nutritional Commentsa                    Grass      Grain

Calcium (mg/100g)           5.5         4.9     Not good source                                   <1c          <1

Copper (Fg/100 g)         160         142     Some samples may contain                       8             7
                                                                 10+% and thus be a good source

Iron (mg/100g)                2.8          2.9     Both are good sources                           16            16

Magnesium (mg/100g)    25.8        24.2    Some samples may contain                       6              6
                                                                10+% and thus be a good source

Manganese (μg/100g)      11.5      13.4      If use % lower estimated                       <1           <1
                                                                  safe and adequate daily dietary
                                                                  intake as is no daily value

Phosphorus (mg/100g)     181        198      Grass-finished is good source                 18          20
                                                                  while grain-finished is excellent

Zinc (mg/100g)                   3.3        3.8      Both are excellent sources                     22          25

Sodium (mg/100g)             44.7      52.2     Both are low in sodium                          -d            -
                                                                  Recommended intake is <2400 mg
                                                                  daily. High sodium intakes are
                                                                  associated with increased incidence
                                                                  of hypertension.

Potassium (mg/100g)         305      336        2000 mg is estimated minimum              -            -

Selenium (μg/100g)           105        26        If use recommended dietary                 191        47
                                                                  allowance as is no daily value

Vitamin A (μg/100g)              -        0.8       Not a good source                                 -         <1

ß-Carotene                            -        nd        Moderate intake levels may be               -           -
                                                                   associated with decreased incidence
                                                                   of heart disease and cancer

Vitamin C (mg/100g)              -        nd        Not a good source                                 -         <1

Thiamin (mg/100g)                  -      0.043    Not a good source                                  -           3

Riboflavin (mg/100g)               -     0.940     Some samples may contain 10+%           -           6
                                                                    and thus be a good source

Niacin (mg/100g)                     -     1.910    Good source                                           -         10

Vitamin B6 (mg/100g)               -      0.240   Good source                                           -         12

Vitamin B12 (μg/100g)              -      2.565   Excellent source                                       -        43

Vitamin E (mg α-TE)                 -      0.048   Not a good source                                   1       <1


aReferences 5-7,9,10,12-15. These vitamins and minerals perform many functions in the body which are detailed elsewhere (reference 12). Low intakes of several of these nutrients have been associated with increased incidence of heart disease, while excessive consumption of a few of these may also result in effects detrimental to human health.
bDaily Value (given as a percentage) is an expression of recommended intake per serving that is utilized in the nutritional labeling (as Nutrition Facts) according to Food and Drug Administration regulations (reference 5).
cContains less than 1% of the Daily Value.
dNo Daily Value exists/data have not been published.

Here is another study done by M. J. Marchello of North Dakota State University


Palatability and Nutrient Composition of Grass-Finished Bison

M. J. Marchello
North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

The ultimate test of the value of meat is its degree of consumer acceptability. Sensory characteristics such a flavor, tenderness, and juiciness influence what meat we eat. Historically, bison meat sustained the health of many societies, but in modern day markets we must provide proof of its nutritional qualities and palatability.

Grass-finished animals enter a different niche market than grain-finished animals. In this study, comparisons were made between strip loins from 24 grass-finished animals on native pasture and 10 grain-finished animals that were obtained from three grassland herds belonging to the Nature Conservancy. Tall Grass Prairie (Oklahoma), Niobrara Valley (Nebraska), and Ordway Prairie (South Dakota) preserves were the selected sites, representing tallgrass and mixed prairie native pastures. A semi-trained taste panel compared the grass and grain-fed strip loins for flavor, tenderness, juiciness, and overall acceptability. The panelists consistently preferred the grain-finished steaks over the grass-finished steaks. Furthermore, the panelists rated the grain-finished steaks equivalent to beef steaks that were used as a negative control. Although the animals were of similar genetic make-up, the grain-finished bison were younger, being only 22 months old, while the grass-finished bison averaged 32 month of age.

No differences were observed in the nutrient content among the four cuts (ribeye, top sirloin, top round, and shoulder clod) from the grain-finished animals, which represent the four major areas of the carcass; however, there were differences among the cuts of the grass-finished bison. Furthermore, when the cuts were averaged and compared across treatments, the grain-finished bison had more protein (21.9 vs. 21.3%), more fat (1.4 vs. 0.9%), and more calories (140 vs. 131) than the grass-finished bison. No differences were observed in total mineral content or cholesterol. The fatty acid profile varied among the cuts and across treatments. Grain-finished bison had less saturated fat (43 vs. 49%), and more mono-unsaturated fat (40 vs. 36%) than grass-finished bison with no differences observed in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These differences in fatty acids may have an effect on the palatability of the meat as perceived by the consumer.

Our research shows that bison meat is a highly nutrient dense food, containing many nutrients in amounts essential to human life and health. Bison meat is high in protein, low in fat and sodium. It is an excellent source of phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, as well as a good source of iron, comparing well with other meats such as beef, pork, lamb, and poultry.

One last study done by M. J. Marchello


Nutrient Composition of Fed Bison

M. J. Marchello
Animal and Range Sciences Department
North Dakota State University, Fargo

Executive Summary

The long-term goal of this project is to develop an adequate database on the nutrient composition of the North American bison. With mandated nutritional labeling of processed meat products, it is only a matter of time before nutritional labeling of fresh meats will be required. Physicians, dieticians, and consumers will be able to utilize this data to make intelligent, informed decisions. This project provides information which may be utilized in developing marketing strategies for both the domestic and international markets.

Individual cuts from the round, loin, rib, and chuck will be analyzed from 100 fed bison. Animals sampled will come from various geographic areas of the United States and Canada. They represent the current types of bison being marketed through restaurants and supermarkets. Nutrient parameters obtained will be moisture, protein, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, energy, minerals (sodium, iron, calcium), and vitamins (A and C).

Dramatic changes are occurring in the food industry. Currently published data, based mainly on the loin eye muscle, indicates bison is a highly nutrient-dense food. The demand for live bison and bison meat already exceeds supply. The bison industry is one of the fastest growing alternative agriculture enterprises, and an increase of 25% every year until 2005 is expected. The industry response to this increasing demand is to provide consistent, highly palatable, nutritious meat to the consumer. This information will be used to comply with demands for nutrient labeling of products, to give consumers suggestions on the proper cooking of bison products to maximize nutritional value, and to develop marketing strategies, especially for international trade. Knowing the nutritive value of bison will encourage consumers to plan healthy meals with this wholesome, delicious product. Bison producers will be able to utilize this database to know their feeding regime is producing a quality product for the marketplace.


The objective of the project was to determine the nutritional composition of bison meat cuts from the round, loin, rib, and shoulder for nutritional labeling. In addition to the required minerals for nutritional labeling, we were able to determine seven additional minerals. We have analyzed for calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sodium (Na), zinc (Zn), and selenium (Se). Twelve long-chain fatty acids have been identified. We are initiating studies to determine thiamin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and E (alpha and gamma tocopherol), in addition to vitamins A and C.

Summary of Research Completed and in Progress

To date, we have collected and initiated chemical analysis on a total of 400 bison meat samples (100 animals) representing nine states and three provinces. The samples represent the four areas of the carcass (round, loin, rib, shoulder). Analysis has been completed on the number (N) of animals indicated. All cuts averaged 74% moisture, 22% protein, 2% fat, 1.2% ash (mineral). Cholesterol content averaged 66 mg/100 gm, with energy value of 145 calories. If you calculate energy as food energy, it would be 110 calories. This is because energy is required to convert protein into calories or food energy.

When you compare the various parts of the carcass, you see differences in the various components. Moisture ranged from 74.0% in the ribeye to 75.4% in the clod muscle of the shoulder. Protein varied from a low of 21% in the clod to a high of 22.3% in the round. The round also had the least amount of fat, with 1.6%, while the sirloin contained 2.4%. The cholesterol content as determined by chromatography varied from 61 mg/100 gm in the ribeye to 71 mg/100 gm in the sirloin. These are similar to values we previously reported (Marchello et al., 1989). Recent results by other investigators have shown lower cholesterol levels. Those researchers are using a different technique to analyze for cholesterol. The technique they use gives lower cholesterol numbers for all animal species examined.

This type of research begs the question, “How does this compare with other meats?” This is difficult to answer in a strictly objective manner because of the many factors that influence nutritional composition (age, sex, type of feed, individual muscle, etc.). In order to be the most objective, I have given an example comparison that was conducted in our laboratory under the same conditions. Furthermore, the comparison was done on the type of meat that is normally found in the stores and is available to us as consumers. This is only a partial list of all the nutrients. As you can see, bison compares quite favorably with the other meats studied.

Minerals are an important part of the nutrient composition of animals. They are essential for many metabolic reactions. Information on three of these minerals is required for nutritional labeling, but other minerals may be included if you so desire. We have analyzed for 10 different minerals, and, as suspected, bison compares very favorably with other animals. Bison is low in calcium relative to Recommended Daily Requirements (RDA), ranging from 4.1 mg/100 gm in the clod muscle to 5.9 mg/100 gm in the ribeye. It is an excellent source of iron, containing around 3 mg/100 gm in the various muscles analyzed. Sodium has been criticized as contributing to hypertension. Bison is low in sodium, ranging from 48 to 60 mg/100 gm in the ribeye and clod muscles, respectively.

Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble and, because bison is low in fat, the quantity of these vitamins in bison meat is very small. Vitamin A averaged 0.00079 mg/100 gm, with a range of 0.00064 in the clod to 0.00094 in the sirloin. This extremely small amount is because of the low fat content of bison and the fact that vitamin A is fat-soluble. Alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol (two forms of vitamin E) content was 0.047 and 0.013 mg/100 gm, respectively. We were unable to detect any vitamin C in the various meat samples with our equipment. Additionally, we have analyzed for Vitamin B6. The results from 12 animals range from a low of .22 mg/100 gm to a high of .28 mg/100 gm in the top round. Ribeye and top sirloin contained .25 mg of Vitamin B6.

Even though fat in the diet has been touted as being bad, fats are a very important component of a balanced diet. Fat adds to the unique flavor and appetite appeal of bison, provides essential fatty acids, and aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Bison meat is low in fat, having a balance of approximately 50% saturated, 37% monounsaturated, and 9% polyunsaturated fats. Sirloin contained the least amount of saturated fat with 49%, while round had the greatest amount with 52%. Round had 35% monounsaturated fat, with ribeye and sirloin possessing 39%. Bison is relatively high in polyunsaturated fat, ranging from 7% in the ribeye to 10% in the round.

Differences in nutrient composition of meat can be attributed to many factors, such as age, sex, function of the individual muscle in the live animal, and condition of the animal at the time it is harvested. Variations of a component can be as great among individuals within a species as between species. These differences are taken into account by analyzing a significant number of animals, as we have done in this study. Results of this study substantiate our previous study, although minor changes in some nutrients have occurred. This study confirms that bison meat is a highly nutrient-dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins in relation to its caloric content.