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Why Is Bison So Expensive

Bison certainly has a long list of qualities that make it the superior red meat but one of its limiting aspects is the price. The modern price of bison is the result of scarcity and logistics which begins with the devastation of the North American Bison back in the mid to late 19th century. The perception of the abundance of bison, and the difficulty of their domestication at the time was the justification settlers used to begin culling their numbers. In addition to efficient rifles, disease was probably the major factor though as North America received many domesticated European cattle and livestock and the new unexposed pathogens they carried.

Today there are over 90 million head of beef in the US alone. Bison numbers on the other hand, are only about 500-600k head all of North America.

While we might not be able to easily explain market driving forces to account for basic costs, we can offer some understanding of the end product costs.

Wholesale prices impact retail prices paid. The primary wholesale market is driven by the US.

Let’s start with Grain-Fed Wholesale prices, animals from both the United States and Canada. According to the USDA Market News, Monthly Bison Report for June 14, 2019, the average hanging hot weight (HHW) of a 24-30 month old bison bull was 700 pounds which brought an average of C$605 per 100 pound weight (CWT) (using $1.34 USD/CAD). This translates into a live cost of C$4,235 per animal.

Since the amount of actual packaged saleable meat would be about ~470 pounds, the average wholesale cost would be $9.01 per pound of bison meat, excluding the costs of processing, labels, and other packaging and marketing costs. Considering basic processing costs typically run from $0.85 to well over $1.75 per HHW which would add (at $1.00 of HHW) an additional $5-700 to the wholesale cost bringing the total cost to $10.50.

If you are paying less than $10.00 or $11.00 a pound for wholesale bison meat, you need to think about what you are actually buying. It is not economically feasible to sell a product at retail below wholesale prices unless that product is outdated or otherwise inferior.

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