By Mary Owen
What could possibly be more all-American than a hot dog?
A hot dog made from buffalo meat!
Buffalo, also called bison – an integral part of American history, are great to eat – and even more fun to watch, said Alice Metz, who runs Cascade Buffalo Ranch with her husband, Eldon.
Bison preceded beef as the meat to eat in the West and was a staple in the Native American diet before the wagon trains brought settlers. Once vast herds – with some 30-70 million bison – roamed freely.
These magnificent animals are known for their lean, healthy red meat, breeding stock, durable hides, and even their skulls that adorned Western homes for centuries.
4 pounds buffalo back ribs
Place back ribs on a medium heat grill. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and black pepper. Grill for approximately 45-60 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 155 -160 degrees. Flip over half way through.
Spread barbecue sauce over back ribs when they are almost done. Serves: 3-4.
Hooked on the benefits, the Metzes began to raise bison six years ago on their 2,000-acre Waldo Hills ranch, about half-way between Silverton and Stayton. The couple started researching the idea when Eldon started his computer consulting business.
“We decided to ranch bison for three reasons: the health benefits of the meat, the interest we had in the heritage and nature of the animal, and the niche we hoped to develop as a local purveyor of this type of healthy red meat,” Metz said. “We bought our first three bison in October of 2003. We currently farm 50 acres with a herd that fluctuates between 40 to 50 head.”
The Metzes raise their bison on natural grasses, supplemented by natural grains and minerals during the winter months when the fenced-in range can’t provide the animals with necessary nutrients.
“No growth hormones, antibiotics or other questionable drugs are fed to our buffalo,” Metz said.
A wide-open market in their community cinched the Metz’s new-found career, and today customers come from all over to purchase specialty cuts such as top steaks and roasts as well as hot dogs, hamburgers and two different types of all-bison sausage. The majority of their sales and income comes from selling at farmers’ markets from May to October, including: Salem Saturday Market, Salem Wednesday Farmers’ Market and McMinnville Farmers’ Market.
“People can also order online or by FAX or phone,” Metz said. Similar to beef, buffalo meat tends to have a fuller, sweeter flavor, Metz said.
“It is not ‘gamey’ or wild tasting,” she added. “Because it’s so lean, buffalo needs to cook more slowly than beef, at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.”
Buffalo meat is extremely low in fat and cholesterol and is high in protein, vitamins and minerals, she said.
“Buffalo meat is 68 percent less fat than skinless chicken and has 35 percent more protein,” Metz said, citing statistics from North Dakota State University.
Bison, nearing the 500,000 population mark in the U.S. after becoming nearly extinct from decades of slaughter, have no instances of mad cow disease, E-coli, or other such problems, in part because the National Bison Association charter prohibits the use of growth hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals, Metz said.
“Another benefit of locally raised buffalo meat such is we avoid the large slaughter houses with the huge numbers that are pushed through and mixed together and the issues that can result.”
Aside from buffalo meat, the Metzes sell the hides from mature bison, obtained between November and February when hides are at their thickest. A winter hide ranges from 30 to 50 square feet and is priced between $500 and $1,500. Plain, white buffalo skulls from meat bulls are also available for $250.
“For the family pooch, chews made out of the hair-off hides are available, she added.
“We’re thrilled with the response of our customers, and the growth,” Metz said. “We have many repeat customers, and we receive many compliments on how much they like the meat. As a result, we’ve grown our herd and operation and our top-line sales well over 20 percent per year.”
For information on Cascade Buffalo Ranch, visit cascadebuffalo.com or call 503-363-2368. The farm is at 11320 Waldo Hills Drive, S.E.