Why is this business suddenly so profitable, considering the economy is still recovering and everyone talks about fears of food inflation? Because it's a niche market catering to a consumer attracted to the animal's history, the fact that there are no hormones involved, and the meat's high protein, low fat content.
This week at Flocchini's Durham Ranch, the thermometer consistently dips below zero degrees, but these animals have been surviving such temperatures since long before humans arrived. But the industry is facing what some might call a crisis in supply. "I would call it a challenge, not a crisis," says Flocchini. There's not enough bison to provide enough meat to meet demand. His association is trying to recruit more ranchers into raising bison. The live animals cost more to buy than cattle, but they're cheaper to raise. Another barrier to entry, females don't have calves until they're three years old, compared to two years for cows. On the other hand, they'll continue producing calves "up into their '20s."
Flocchini also says the brucellosis affecting bison in Yellowstone Parkis contained to that area only, and he brags his vet bills are cheaper than if he was raising cattle.