A: Q: Is it “Certified Organic”?
A: No. While we are not 100% certified by the USDA, we consider the quality and safety of our meat beyond organic. Beyond Organic to us means as nature intended... raised the way they were intended to be prior to human intervention. Native diet, movements mimicking nature's mini migrations, 100% chemical-free, low stress, humane harvest, no hormones or antibiotics, etc. The term "Certified Organic" alone can still mean it was finished in an unnatural setting on a heavy grain diet, it just means that the grain it ate was organically raised. 100% grass fed & finished on organically managed landscapes as nature intended is what you're really after. Additionally, one must consider the processing component after the animal was raised and harvested... we process as simply and minimally as possible with ZERO corn or soy based products, machine lubricants, or cleaning agents. THAT is beyond organic. To read more about the distinctions between grass fed and organic, read this article by Jo Robinson
Q: How many bison do you have?
A: All our bison are not on one farm. We are an assembly of over 10 very small family farms, regenerative/conservation-minded ranchers, and Nature Conservancies, that all work together toward the same standard of as nature intended. The average herd is around 50 head, but varies from 5 to several hundred. Annually, every rancher or farmer (including us) signs our strict producers affidavit (that remains the highest standard in the industry) that resides on file in our office as well as on file with the Department of Trade & Consumer Protection in Madison, WI. Our producer's affidavit is basically a sworn oath we renew every year as a renewed, conscious commitment to the good of the land, people, and animals to the absolute best of our knowledge and abilities. It's fun to see what this document has become over the years as we grow and learn together, continually becoming better stewards of what we've been entrusted with. We ask questions and enlighten each other often as we see and experience varying results in land or animal health indicators that ultimately lead to better tasting, higher nutritional density product. Nature has it's way of doing things that is fascinating. We are simply students, trying to discern, understand, and replicate how nature functioned before roads, fences, houses, etc. Our ranches are mini ecosystems which are extremely complex, interesting, and exciting! Our network of like-minded producers continues to grow. We want to be a conduit for customers like you to be able to make real impacts on the land and continued restoration of bison and other valuable wildlife species through your purchases. Our heartbeat is consumer direct because we learn so much from you, want to serve you as best as we possibly can, and allow the maximum amount of your dollars to be making a very real difference. A difference for small-farm families who are passionate about doing right by the land and animals, remnant native species, and endangered prairie and savanna ecosystems. Your impact is significant in our fight for what we believe our world can look like. For reference, the US Beef industry hovers at about 90 million head and slaughters about 125,000 beef per day. Bison (once 60 million +/- strong) hover at about 400,000 animals and harvest about 70,000 bison per year. Half a day of Beef slaughter = an entire year of bison harvest. If you're buying bison meat, you're making a significant difference!!! Bison meat sales demand is fueling the reclamation of bison territory and, in our case in Wisconsin & Minnesota, actually reverting mono-culture crop land back into beautiful native grassland & savanna blend ecosystem habitats that support incredibly diverse wildlife populations that are fading (such as prime pollinator habitat). Check out Cedar Creek & Belwin Conservancy as two great examples of the real impacts your support is making!
Q: Is the Elk tested for CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease)?
A: All elk we harvest that have lived in a region that has had a CWD positive is automatically lab-tested for CWD upon harvest and withheld from further processing until the lab results come back confirming that animal is CWD negative. Elk that lived outside of a CWD positive region are not tested unless they show signs of being suspect. We have a food safety inspector onsite 100% of the time so any elk that are noted as suspect (whether ante mortem or post mortem) are retained and tested to confirm consumer safety prior to being released for processing. Here is a great article talking about CWD with photos to show what a CWD positive Elk can look like: http://cwd-info.org/cwd-overview/
Also, check out this blog we wrote about CWD: Chronic Wasting Disease
Q: How is your Jerky product different than the common, shelf, stable "Jack Link's-style" jerky in the stores?
A: Our Bison, elk, and beef jerky products are produced without chemical preservatives. We use our own custom seasoning blend with some sea salt, that combined with the natural dehydration process does add shelf life to it but isn't truly "shelf stable" like the stuff you see hanging on a rack by the checkout at convenience stores. It is great to take on hiking, camping and any outdoors adventures or traveling where you don't have refrigeration. We keep it frozen in order to maintain it's longest life for you to enjoy a fresh, flavorful jerky that has it's full life out-of-the-refrigerator or freezer ahead of it for you! Why we do all of this is because the chemicals that make products shelf stable are harmful for your gut while readily decomposing foods (the ones that need refrigeration) are easy to digest and provide the highest nutrient absorption rate.
Q: What percent of liver & heart is in Ground Bison Blend?
A: The Ground Bison Blend is an AMAZING product made with a 12.5% blend of each bison liver & heart & 75% trim meat (like regular hamburger). So, a 1 lb pack = 12 oz. ground bison, 2 oz. bison liver, 2 oz. bison heart. Use as a substitute in any ground meat recipe to ramp up the nutritional value of your meal without the organ meats flavor!
Q: What casings are used for your sausages?
A: The sausage products that are encased are made with the following:
Natural Pork Casing: Bratwurst, Kielbasa
Natural Sheep Casing: Hot Dogs, Breakfast Links
Beef Collagen Casing: Ring Bologna, Summer Sausage, Snack Sticks
To learn more about our unique, old-world sausage making practices, click here.
Q: How long are your steaks aged?
A: Our Bison, Elk, & Beef steaks (Ribeye, New York Strip, Top Sirloin) are dry aged for 7 days and then wet aged for another 14 days. Wet aging the process of holding the meat in a oxygen devoid environment (vacuum sealed bag) and held at a strict cooler temperature to slow bacterial activity as the meat ages, creating a more flavorful, more consistently tender eating experience. Another reason we wet age the last 14 days vs dry aging is after 7 days the meat starts to really dry down and form a crust that, once finished aging, has to be trimmed off and thrown away. For financial, stewardship, and eating experiential reasons, we choose to wet age which, when done properly, creates a zero-waste aging process. We can be proud of that and you can enjoy the results. :)
To learn more about our steak aging craft, click here.
Q: Where are you guys located?
A: In northwest Wisconsin but more specifically, about 100 miles NE of Minneapolis/St. Paul, just across the river in a mixed open land/big timber region that is perfect for grazing bison. We have our main ranch just 8 miles north of Rice Lake, WI at Hwy 53 & Cty Rd. V. GPS address: 1936 28th Ave., Rice Lake, WI 54868
**Our newest facility and wholesale meat store is on 222 Birch Ave, Cameron, WI. 54822 (715)-458-4300.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 8-5 pm, Sat. by appointment (715-651-0965-Mary's cell)
Q: Does your meat ever go on sale?
A: While we have occasional sales or promotions, we try to keep the price of our meat as low as possible all the time based on the cost of producing our products. The best way to keep a pulse on sale opportunities is to sign up for our weekly emails. (Don't worry, we would never send you junk, bombard your inbox, or sell your information! We'll treat you like we want to be treated. If you get something from us, it'll be worth a glance at the minimum.)
Q: What Are the Elk Fed?
A: The Elk that we have farm-raised on pasture grazing the grasses and forbs available. During winter, the elk are supplemented with hay & non-GMO oats. To learn more about our elk, check out the Elk; How It's Made page.
It is not legal for us to sell wild hunted elk meat. If you want that, we can refer you to an elk hunting expedition in NM that our son Sean guides for in the fall!
Q: Are your Bison 100% Grass fed & Finished?
A: Yes, you can take that to the bank!! Our animals NEVER receive any form of grain in their life. 100% grass fed meat has a very desirable CLA level and Omega 3's vs Omega 6 fatty acids creating a favorable ratio of 4:1 (6's to 3's).
The CLA Advantage
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a naturally occurring free fatty acid found mainly in meat and dairy products in small amounts. CLA was discovered by accident in 1978 by Michael W. Pariza at the University of Wisconsin while looking for mutagen formations in meat during cooking. The most abundant source of natural CLA is the meat and dairy products of grass-fed animals. Research conducted since 1999 shows that grazing animals have from 3-5 times more CLA than animals fattened on grain in a feedlot. Simply switching from grain-fed to grass-fed products can greatly increase your intake of CLA. (Dhiman, T. R., G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). "Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets." J Dairy Sci 82(10): 2146-56.)
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid for human growth and development. We must have it to be healthy. Grass-finished beef is a great source for this essential nutrient. The source of Omega 3 is the green leaves of plants. When cattle eat their natural diet, beef becomes a great source of Omega 3. Grain is not a rich source of Omega 3, so standard, cattle-finishing practices cause the Omega 3 level to decrease dramatically.
For more about our Bison, visit our Bison; How It's Made page.
Q: Can we see your farm?
A: Yes!! You are welcome to visit any time. Our store is open Monday-Friday (8-5) at 222 Birch Ave, Cameron, WI and Friday 8-5, Saturday 8-12 on the ranch. We have virtual tours on our website, YouTube, & Facebook, and we conduct an annual Customer Appreciation Day as well as an Annual Producer’s Conference both of which are held on a producer’s farm. You can get these dates on the website. If you're interested in a ranch tour of the ranch, click here.
Q: How shall we cook it?
A: Check out our Cooking Guidelines. We do recommend that you try slowly cooking it to one stage less than you are used to having (If you like Medium, try Medium Rare). We do this because over-cooking dries and toughens grass fed and wild game meats. It also destroys many of the vitamins, enzymes, and other valuable nutrients. It takes a while to get used but it has extra flavor and the health benefits are great.
Q: Isn’t “corn fed” meat better tasting?
A: Corn fed bison certainly has a distinct flavor. Americans have, for the most part, grown up on corn fed meat as it made up the majority of what was available. Once people experience the clean, fresh flavor of grass fed and finished as nature intended, one quickly becomes spoiled and nothing less will do! Flavor comes from two places; age & fat. Grass fed animals are 6-12 months older than feedlot finished animals and, when grazed properly, have a little grass fed fat on them which puts the "frosting on the cake"! Grass fed bison should never be gamey or strong tasting (due to high stress upon harvest, poor living conditions causing poor animal health, or extreme age). It should taste clean, delicious, and slightly sweet. Dr. Marchelo from NDSU did a double blind taste test and the results confirmed that grass fed bison had a very distinct, desirable flavor.
Q: Yum! What did you put on it?!
A: Usually nothing! But you can add a little sea salt, which is good for you, and occasionally, I use a little black pepper. So, just salt and pepper, nothing else! Really good meat stands alone without any sauces, marinades or other flavorings. We say, "Why buy food that needs a sauce, dressing, or condiment to taste amazing?!" When pan frying, consider using animal fat (like our extremely nutritious Bone Broth Tallow) instead of oil and when cooking a roast or something lean, use a few scoops of our Bone Broth Concentrate to moisten and enrich your meal vs just using water and a bouillon cube. Amazing meals are right around the corner using the simplest of elements! Starting with quality is the key.