A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is Bison Leaner Than Beef? Whatever, Turkey!

Updated March 19, 2013
Home on the Front Range: I stopped by to say hi to a bison herd on my ride along the Front Range of the Rockies this morning.
In the comments section of a recent Wall Street Journal article, Beef Industry Carves a Course, I read an interesting comment. "I think that if the beef industry was real smart, they would start to promote the leaner meats like buffalo," said Louis. "With buffalo meat you can literally have a good steak and not worry about clogging up your arteries."

To put it bluntly, that's a bunch of bull!

Speaking of bull, check out this huge bull bison!
I have several problems with Louis' comment. First, we don't raise buffalo in the U.S. We raise bison. Second, I'm not sure how it would be smart for the beef industry to promote bison. That's like saying Ford should promote Chevy. Third, and most important, you can enjoy many great lean beef steaks without worrying about clogging your arteries!

Having said that, I have nothing against bison. I occasionally enjoy a bison burger or steak. But is it true that bison meat is leaner? The answer, like most blanket statements about food, is "it depends." In the case of meat, it depends on the cut. Different cuts of beef and bison have different levels of fat content. A ribeye, for example, has more fat than a tenderloin. This is true for both beef and bison.

There are 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, including some of America's most popular steaks like tenderloin (filet mignon), strip loin (KC or NY strip) and the T-Bone (a filet on one side and a strip on the other). That means they fall between a skinless chicken breast and a skinless chicken thigh in fat content (not all chicken is lean, especially when you have to add fat to make it taste good!)

When it comes to ground meat, you have to check the label. The fat content depends on the blend. I checked the labels on some ground bison and ground beef this afternoon at my local grocery store. The only ground bison available was Great Range Ground Bison. This product is 90% lean and contains 11g of total fat (17% daily value) and 4g of saturated fat (20% daily value).

The "natural" ground beef in the same case was 91% lean and contains 10g total fat (15%) and also had 4g saturated fat (20%). In other words, the ground beef and ground bison was almost identical in fat to lean ratio.

I was watching the Food Network one day and the chef was making meatloaf. Her big tip was to substitute half the ground beef with ground turkey because it was leaner. In the next breath she said when buying ground beef always choose 80/20 because the fat adds flavor. Seriously?! So I also checked out the turkey aisle. Well, as Gomer Pyle would say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise." Most of the ground turkey in the meat case was 85/15 (85% lean).

And now Miss Turkey is promoting charbroiled turkey burgers for Carl'sJr./Hardees. Supposedly intended to attract customers looking for healthier choices, the Carl's Jr. Original Turkey Burger features red onion, tomato, dill pickles, ketchup and mayo and has 490 calories and 23 grams of total fat. But wait, the Carl's Jr. Big Hamburger (similar serving size) also has 490 calories but 5 grams less fat! Whatever, turkey! While I must admit I like the commercial with Miss Turkey, that's a bunch of bull!

So the next time you are buying meat, don't buy into the marketing bull. Read the label and make an intelligent choice. Why not choose LEAN ground beef and get all that great beef flavor with the same or less fat than ground bison or turkey?

Ride on!



  1. Great summary for a consumer who has heard all the different stories but never spent the time checking all of the numbers. Since Bison and Turkey is rare in Australia, I guess we will have to stick to beef - even if it's that yucky grass fed stuff.

  2. Great post Daren. Great points to think about too.


Please share your comment or question here!