Frequently Asked Questions

Not everyone gets to spend almost everyday with these majestic animals like the majority of our members do. We as producers are always learning new things about bison and how to better care for these animals. The NWBA wants to be able to educate as many people as we can. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about bison.


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Q: Are Bison tame like cattle?

A: Bison are not domestic animals and should be treated with caution and respect. Each animal has its own distinct personality.

Q: What is the difference between bison and buffalo?

A: The term “buffalo” is incorrect for the North American species; its proper Latin name is Bison bison. However, common usage has made the term “buffalo” an acceptable synonym for the American bison. (from The American Buffalo in Transition, by J. Albert Rorabacher.) Learn more about bison producer’s concerns in truth in labeling regarding the term “buffalo” here.

Q: What Regulations Govern the Inspection of Bison Sold into the Commercial Retail and Restaurant Marketplace?

A: Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, bison are classified as an exotic, or “non-amenable species,” and thus operate under some unique regulatory provisions.All bison marketed into the commercial marketplace must be processed in an FDA-approved facility. These facilities are required to comply with all FDA regulations, as well as with the FSIS regulations regarding sanitation.  Bison producers/processors may also request “voluntary inspection” services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspections Service (FSIS) or from a an accredited state-inspection program which offers inspection “at least equal” to USDA. 

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Q: What is the average life span of a bison?

A: 20-25 years for female animals. Bulls can live to about 20 years of age.

Q: How many bison are there in North America?

A: There are approximately 500,000-head.

Q: What is the nutritional value of bison?

A: Bison meat contains 2.42 grams of fat, 143 calories, and 82 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of cooked lean meat. Comparatively, beef: 9.28 grams of fat, 211 calories, and 86 milligrams of cholesterol; pork: 9.66 grams of fat, 212 calories, 86 milligrams of cholesterol; chicken (skinless): 7.41 grams of fat, 190 calories, 89 milligrams of cholesterol.

Q: Are bison agile?

A: Bison can run at speeds up to 40 MPH and clear a 6 ft fence.

Q: How much do bison weigh?

A: A mature bison bull will weigh approximately 2,000 pounds while a mature bison cow will weigh approximately 1,100 pounds.

Q: What is the gestation period for a female bison?

A: The gestation period for the American bison is 9 1/2 months. Under normal conditions, cows have their calves from mid-April through June. Cows generally have one calf per year, but twins may occur very rarely.

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If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact the NWBA or our members!