Eat Empowered

Bison vs. Beef: Which Is a Healthier Meat?


By Erin Parekh, Nutritious Life Certified health coach. Follow her on Instagram at @erinparekh_.

Ever had bison? It’s similar to beef in many respects, but there are a few key differences. First off, beef is from cattle while bison is from well, bison, a.k.a. buffalo.

In terms of nutrition, both bison and beef are red meat, meaning they’re solid sources of protein and essential nutrients like iron, zinc, and B12. Bison, however, is generally much leaner than beef, resulting in 25 percent fewer calories and less saturated fat per serving. Taste-wise, they’re quite similar, but bison has a slightly more intense flavor.

Which is more environmentally sustainable: bison or beef?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of swapping beef for bison is the effects on the environment. Bison is a more environmentally sustainable choice over most beef, because buffalo are almost always pasture-raised, which means they eat a natural diet of grass. Cows bred for commercial beef are usually fed a diet of grains, corn, and soy. 

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Grass-fed beef/bison is better for the environment because it helps restore nutrient-depleted soil and has been shown to have a reduced carbon footprint. It’s also better for your health because grass-fed bison/beef is generally higher in vitamins and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t find grass-fed beef, but if you’re choosing between one or the other at a restaurant, bison is simply more likely to be pasture-raised. When in doubt, ask your server.

Where can I buy bison and grass-fed beef?

You can find both grass-fed bison and beef in the freezer section of your local supermarket, and more and more specialty stores are carrying them at the butcher counter. There are also wonderful online companies that deliver pasture-raised meats right to your doorstep. My favorites are ButcherBox and Vital Choice because I trust their sourcing and the quality is usually better than meat at most supermarkets. 

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How should I cook with bison?

Bison and beef are fairly interchangeable when it comes to cooking and swapping one for the other in recipes. Just keep in mind that bison has less fat, so you may need to use a little extra oil while cooking, and its flavor is a bit stronger than beef.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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