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

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

J.A. Driskell
Nutritional Science and Dietetics, 
University of Nebraska, Lincoln 

Consumers are eating bison meat as an alternative red meat.  However, there is some controversy regarding the nutritive quality of grass and grain-finished bison. The data, which exists as to the nutrient content of meat from grass and grain-finished bison, is given in the following charts.  

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. 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; the same was true for the grain-finished. Therefore, the nutrient content of these four cuts was averaged.

The macronutrient and food energy content of meat from grass and grain-finished bison bulls is given in the following Table 1. Comments regarding the nutritional content are also listed here.

COMPARISON OF MICRONUTRIENT AND ENERGY CONTENT OF RAW SEPARABLE LEAN FROM GRASS- VS. GRAIN-FINISHED BISON

NUTRIENT

GRASS %

GRAIN %

NUTRITIONAL COMMENTS

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 (% of fat)

47.4

42.5

Low intakes associated with decreased incidence of heart disease & cancer.

Monounsaturated Fat (% of fat)

35.4

46.5

Higher proportion associated with decreased incidence of heart disease & cancer.

Oleic Acid (% of fat)

34.0

42.7

Higher proportion perhaps associated with decreased incidence of heart disease.

Polyunsaturated Fat (% of fat)

17.2

11.0

Higher proportion associated with decreased incidence of heart disease & cancer.

Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) 
(% of fat)

13.8

10.5

Recommended Omega-6: Omega-3 intake is 4-10.1.

Linoleic Acid 
(Omega-3) (% of fat)

3.4

0.5

 

Ash (%)

1.2

1.2

Reflective of total mineral content.

Cholesterol
(mg/100g)

65

66

Lean Meat.  Low intakes associated with decreased incidence of heart disease & cancer.

Food Energy
(kcal/100g)

133

141

Relatively low in calories.

 

The vitamin and mineral (micronutrients) content of meat from grass and grain-finished bison is given in Table 2. Comments regarding the nutritional content are also listed here. 

COMPARISON OF THE VITAMIN AND MINERAL CONTENT OF RAW SEPARABLE LEAN FROM GRASS VS. GRAIN-FINISHED BISON

MINERAL (mg/100g)

GRASS

GRAIN

NUTRITIONAL COMMENTS (a)

Mean % of Recommended Daily Value (b)

GRASS

GRAIN

Calcium
(milligram/100g)

5.5

4.9

Not a good source

<1

<1

Copper
(microgram/100g)

160

142

Some samples may contain 10+%, thus a good source

8

7

Iron
(milligram/100g)

2.8

2.9

Both are good sources

16

16

Magnesium
(milligram/100g)

25.8

24.2

Some samples may contain 10%+, thus a good source

6

6

Manganese
(microgram/100g)

11.5

13.4

If use % lower estimated safe & adequate daily intake as is no daily value

<1

<1

Phosphorus
(milligram/100g)

181

198

Grass-finished is good source while 18 grain finished is excellent source

18

20

Zinc
(milligram/100g)

3.3

3.8

Both are excellent sources

22

25

Sodium
(milligram/100g)

44.7

52.2

Both are low in sodium.  Recommended intake is

-d

-

Potassium
(milligram/100g)

305

336

2000 mg. is estimated minimum requirement

-

-

Selenium
(microgram/100g)

105

26

If use recommended dietary allowances as is no daily value

191

47

Vitamin A
(microgram/100g)

-

0.8

Not a good source

-

<1

B-Carotene

-

nd

Moderate intake levels may be associated with decreased heart disease & cancer

-

-

Vitamin C
(milligram/100g)

-

nd

Not a good source

-

<1

Thiamin
(milligram/100g)

-

0.043

Not a good source

-

3

Riboflavin
(milligram/100g)

-

0.940

Some samples may contain 10+% thus a good source

-

6

Niacin
(milligram/100g)

-

1.0110

Good source

-

10

Vitamin B6
(milligram/100g)

-

0.240

Good source

-

12

Vitamin B12
(microgram/100g)

-

2.565

Excellent source

-

43

Vitamin E
(milligram alpha-tocopherol)

-

0.048

Not a good source

1

<1


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. This same pattern has been observed in the cooking of meat from other species such as beef.

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 with controlled feeding studies.  Consumers frequently are more interested in how bison meat compares with meat from beef, pork, or poultry, and it compares well. 

Sign up to our e-newletter today to keep up to date with us!

* indicates required