Trending: What’s Up With This Bison Food Craze?

That’s right, bison. Chefs are saucing, grilling, roasting and stacking burgers with the rediscovered American Buffalo. And there’s a campaign afoot to educate and introduce the meat as (the newest) healthy option, with Chicago on top of the trend.

Photo via The Bison Council Take a bite out of bison with Chef Michael Kornick's grilled bison sliders topped with blueberry barbecue sauce and goat's milk cheese. 

In the late '80s, Predator was cha-chinging in theaters and television was saturated with commercials pumping the snappy slogan “Pork. The Other White Meat.” The National Pork Board engineered a make-over strategy to cure the pig’s much-maligned reputation. 

That campaign worked and the newly formed Bison Council is treading the same marketing footsteps in an effort to silence a few myths, get you to put it on your shopping list and serve up this misunderstood yet versatile red meat. 

Michael Kornick, one of the council’s founding ambassadors and acclaimed chef of Chicago’s mk The Restaurant and DMK Burger Bar, says there are three misconceptions he encounters about bison: It has a gamey taste, it's endangered and any health benefits are a piffle.  

All of the bison is healthy,” he says. “Unlike the pork bacon and fatty stuff that went along with the pork deal.” True. Surprisingly, bison ranks lower in fat and calories than a skinless chicken breast (103 calories versus 119 per 100 grams) and has the lowest fat of any animal protein. 

It's "a meat lover’s dream,” says the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, also a council member.  

Always in season, it gives cooks and diners year-round availability, with plenty of chances to bring a little adventure to your palette. Kornick has added a grilled bison rib eye with forest mushrooms as one of his specialties to the menu at mk The Restaurant. This cut has a “great man’s steak” character, says the chef, a convincing entrée for beef lovers.

Photo via mk The Restaurant mk The Restaurant in River North has updated its seasonal menu with bison specials. Chef Kornick offers a potato gnocchi with red wine-braised bison, Manchego cheese and crushed marcona almonds.

For those with endangered species or commercial-farming worries, take note: These Great Plains nomad herds are free-roaming, free-range animals. Though hunted nearly to extinction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bison population resurged; it's no longer endangered. 

There’s not a slogan yet, although it looks like the council has sent a trial balloon with “North America’s Original Red Meat.” Still, the meat has a marketing and awareness curve to conquer, one that cuts through the competing foodie noise — and sticks. Campaigns do bomb. Years ago, the expensive and exotic ostrich meat was a failed experiment the public scoffed at. You want us to buy what? Ostrich?

But bison might swing it. It’s what’s between the buns at Kornick’s DMK Burger Bar. Chomping into the heft of a bison burger, a huge crowd-pleaser, says Kornick, settles once and for all the “gamey” issue and satisfies the beefy burger craving.

Need more bison data? Check out The Bison Council's website for cooking, handling details and recipes. 

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