Ground buffalo at the One Stop Meat

One Stop Meat Shop's Ron Muth said ground buffalo meat is a nutrient-enriched alternative to ground beef. Buffalo contains fewer calories and more protein and Omega-3 fatty acids than other types of meats.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Maurice Poe is a big believer in the benefits of buffalo.

"I think it's healthier than beef plus it just tastes better," the South Sioux City man said while grabbing some buffalo burgers from a freezer case. "Once you try buffalo, you're hooked."

Buffalo, also commonly referred to as bison, is one of the leanest red meats around. One Stop Meat Shop's Ron Muth has been selling the specialty steaks and burgers for more than 16 years.

"When I first opened up shop, it was hard getting people to even try buffalo," he said at his 519 Fourth St. store. "Nowadays, customers are more knowledgeable about what they put into their bodies and willing to be more open minded."

Just how healthy is bison meat? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it's a nutrient dense food because of how its proportion of protein, fats and minerals are stacked against its caloric value.

The USDA said bison has significantly less fat, calories and cholesterol and significantly higher amounts of protein, iron and vitamin B-12 than beef, pork and chicken.

Not only that, bison is chock-full of Omega-3, which can protect your heart, promote cardiovascular function, lower blood pressure and keep you from getting sick since it contains anti-inflammatory elements.

The reason for bison's high nutritional value comes from how they are raised, Muth said.

"Bison are grass-fed and grass-finished their entire lives," he said. "That means their meat isn't subject to chemicals, hormones or anything like that."

Instead, bison is produced like other meats were produced more than 70 years ago.

"When people say meat tasted better years ago, they're right," Muth said. "Back then, meats were free of drugs and antibiotics and everything like that."

So, what does bison taste like? It isn't gamey, is it?

"That's what a lot of people think," Muth admitted. "Actually, it isn't gamey at all. In fact, bison is sweet and has a very nice taste."

 He said the meat can be substituted for beef in just about any recipe. "It's a pretty versatile meat."

Indeed, bison is considered to be "America's Original Red Meat," according to the National Bison Association.

They say that Native Americans turned one of their greatest natural resources -- bison -- into tools and meat to help them survive.

Walking around his store, Muth shows off freezers that contain largely locally sourced bison, lamb, poultry and seafood.

"Our pricing might be a higher than as chain grocery store but it reflects the costs to raise quality meat to market," he said. "If the price is lower, something has been added to cheapen the product or it has been altered in some way."

Muth said he's hoping to retire in a few months.

"I've had a farm in Ireton, Iowa, as well as the meat shop in Sioux City," he said. "I think I'm ready for a change of pace."

Still, Muth is proud of the fact he was ahead of the curve when it came to providing customers with healthier food alternatives.

"Naturally raised meats will always taste better and be healthier," he said. "In the long run, it's also more economical because the meat is richer tasting and you're eating less of it."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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