Reader Tara writes in with some fascinating comments on grass fed bison.
Her comments are in italics, mine in roman.
I was a nutritionist, now evolved into an apprenticing farmer and butcher. I spent last fall on a 3000 acre native grassland prairie farm where we farmed and butchered meat. The farm had a small abattoir right on the premises so I was privy to some mini observational experiments. I was able to see the differences between neighbouring farmers grain fed beef animals with the wild meat of our farm (free roaming bison herds that never see humans except when we would pull up the truck from a few hundred metres away to 'harvest' an animal). We also did some custom cutting for local hunters.
One objection to my observations on lamb and steer carcasses is that domestic animals have been bred to gain weight (fat) for our consumption. Actually the opposite is true for factory pork, but I digress. Unlike cattle that are products of thousands of years of intense artificial selection, ranched bison are genetically little changed from the ones that thundered the northern plains just 150 years ago. Bison should be pretty representative of the fat content of wild ruminants that were consumed in archaic diets
It was not unusual for us to snack on the raw, grass-fed meat of the farm while we were cutting it. Anyone who thinks grass fed meat is unusually lean has simply not seen a properly finished animal. The custom meat cutting we did for outside farms was a different story. The meat was pale and sour smelling. The fat, while abundant intramuscularly was a different texture. We complained that it felt 'greasy' and 'slimy'. Anecdotal, I know, but I have often said that if I could just have people smell the difference between grass or grain fed beef carcasses, I wouldn't have to say another word.
I’ve not eaten much CAFO lamb. The grass finished lambs I eat have an intense flavor that is literally the best tasting food I have ever eaten. By far my favorite meat. It literally tastes like grass – a subtle, slightly astringent flavor. We lick the grease from our fingers.
Unfortunately, here in Ontario, I have been unable to find a finished grass-fed animal, instead the meat is often pale pink, too low in fat, tough and weak in taste, a sure sign of an improperly finished animal.
You can see some of the pictures of what fat looks like from a grass fed, wild bison.
This is about as close as you can get to the bison that used to roam these plains. Even in the winter, they are foraging. Check out the fat on that animal. If you wanted lean, you would be trimming all of that outside fat off. Thankfully, our customers were educated enough to ask for that fat to be rendered or mixed in with the ground. The grass fed bison, properly finished, were also bountifully endowed with deep, yellow fat.
I'm also a hunter. In fact, I have some venison bones in the stockpot right now.
I agree with you Kurt, our wild meat has plenty of fat in it. Although, we're finding it tougher to find wild game that doesn't have access to grain fields in our area. Next year, hubby and I are planning on going further up north where the animals aren't gorging on GMO soy like they are in our neck of the woods.
Thank you for adding these fascinating observations to our anecdotal but for me completely convincing evidence on the fat content of wild ruminants.