CADIZ - For almost 12 years Boss Bison Ranch owned by John and Karen Sticht has delivered a taste of America by offering a choice of buffalo meat in place of the standard cow. They are expanding and making preparations to move the butchering operation in house as well.
"We're excited about our endeavor," Karen said.
"We have been selling meat. Now with the demand for bison meat. We've got a herd that's substantial. We can fill that need," she said. "Our name is getting out there."
T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK
The Boss Bison Ranch prepares to move their entire meat preparation operation to their ranch site in Cadiz. Pictured with some of the herd are owner John Sticht and employee James Sticht.
They added that there has been a marketing campaign by the National Bison Association to promote the benefits of bison meat. Karen noted that smaller farms stand to benefit from the interest.
"People are looking for better nutrition," she said, adding that bison meat is low in fat and high in iron and omega three and six acids. The meat is 95 percent lean with little trans-fat.
While most of the cuts are similar to beef, the tenderloins and ribeyes are smaller. However, the ranch will offer thicker cuts.
In addition, John said many who try bison meat notice a difference in taste.
"It's got flavor. It tastes the way meat used to taste," he said.
Also, as the Native Americans who lived off the buffalo could claim, the animal products are highly versatile.
"Every part of the bison is salable, from hides to hooves to their bones," Karen said.
Their son, James, noted that since Bison are not considered traditional livestock they are exempt from some USDA butchering standards.
However, a state inspector will examine every animal before butchering. The butchering equipment and premises will also be inspected for sanitary standards.
Currently the Sticht herd includes 34 animals with 20 new calves expected by summer.
John added that bison mature at half the rate of cattle, but live longer. Bison reach maturity at about nine or 10 years old and have lived as long as 50 years in captivity. The prime butchering age for a bison is two or three years. A typical animals provides 600-800 pounds of meat. Four to six bulls are sold in a given year. Restaurants and other businesses often order whole animals.
He noted that raising bison present a different and expanded set of challenges due to the nature of the livestock. Factors include the larger size and greater intelligence of bison.
"One of the key things is proper fencing," he said, noting that bison will wreak havoc on a typical fence post when they get their yearly wool coat and look for surfaces to rub. "They'll rub the bark right off the trees. You can rule fence posts out."
He added that a buffalo hide is three times the thickness of a cow's. The wool is also stronger than mole hair.
"Buffalo think man designed barbed wire for combing their hair on," John said. During the industrial revolution, buffalo were slaughtered for their hide alone, to provide leather belts for machines.
The animals require pastures with high protein grass. The property had been fallow for six year before the ranchers began seeding the pasture 12 years ago.
Karen observed that Bison once covered the North American continent from Canada to South America with 60 million at one time. They left a definite mark on the terrain. There are still buffalo traces in the Ohio River where thousands crossed.
She said the animals were seen as too difficult to domesticate and were slaughtered, with the last one in Ohio shot in 1803.
However, technology such as electric fencing has allowed ranchers such as the Stichts to raise the animals.
They are members of the National Bison League, which provides valuable information in raising bison.
July is National Bison Month.
The ranch is located at 45701 Unionvale Road. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Their contact number is (740) 942-8726. The Web site is BossBisonRanch.com
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org