Where the Buffalo Moan

They’ve been worshiped, they’ve been slaughtered. Now bison are back—so why won’t you buy some burger?

But marketing and distribution gains may take some time, and Sexhus acknowledges that the amount of surplus trim is growing fast. "There is a problem," he says. "An intermediate problem. Our inventories are higher than we would like. They are not as high as they were, but they may get up to where they were before."

Having studied the industry, researcher Vern Anderson says he believes the price of bison trim could fall without hurting anyone. "We have a unique view, and we can call them like we see them," he says. "I think bison is still a premium product, but there needs to be a price point where product is moved rapidly through the system. I believe there is a bright future for the bison industry. We just need to make something out of trim."

And someone needs to do something fast, as the industry continues to grow rapidly. At the current growth rate of 15 to 20 percent a year, there could theoretically be more than two million buffalo by 2010. That's a lot of potentially unsold burger.

Buffalo Will: The Denver Buffalo Company's Will McFarlane thinks the bison industry is over the hump.
Buffalo Will: The Denver Buffalo Company's Will McFarlane thinks the bison industry is over the hump.
Gastronomical proportions: Bison fan Sam Arnold holds down The Fort.
Brett Amole
Gastronomical proportions: Bison fan Sam Arnold holds down The Fort.

"It will grow, because we've taken the bison out of the zoo mentality," McFarlane says. "If you want to grow something, you eat it. That's why there are more chickens than bald eagles."

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