Attendees at the International Bison Conference in Big Sky, Montana, earlier this month included 6-year-olds, teenagers, millennials, mid-life career changers, and grandparents. The enormous, shaggy animals, once hunted to the edge of extinction, are making a comeback as a chic, healthy, and environmentally friendly source of meat. It’s healthier than beef, with more protein and less fat than salmon, and it is also more lucrative for ranchers.
A pound of ground beef retails for $4.99 per pound at the moment, according to USDA data. Ground bison currently sells for more than twice that price, at $10.99 per pound. The past three years have seen a 25 percent increase in sales in the retail and food service sectors, according to the trade group, bringing in about $350 million in 2016. The bison industry, unlike some of its peers in meat production, is keenly aware that climate change is a looming threat to the health of the herds, and ultimately to profits. Among the crowds in Big Sky, there seemed to be a consensus that the bison industry would need to adapt.