Bison vs. Beef: Which Is Better for Your Health?

Bison vs. beef

Bison vs. beef. Ever torn between ordering a bison burger and a beef burger? Many of us have been there. After all, is one healthier than the other? Do they taste the same? It can be very confusing with all the options these days.

Bison and beef are both forms of red meat. They are terrific sources of protein and each features all nine essential amino acids. They taste relatively similar, though bison does tend to have a smoother texter in the mouth. For the most part, the two are interchangeable and can be served as a steak or roast, or even ground up as burgers.

As similar as these meats are, there are some major differences. The most obvious is that beef comes from cattle and bison comes from, well, bison (often mistakenly referred to as buffalo). Bison are the larger, woolier cousins of cattle.

The North American bison has experienced a surge in popularity due to claims of its leaner, lower-calorie meat and environmental sustainability compared to beef cattle.

Keep reading to discover the real differences and similarities between the meats of these two members of the Bovidae family.

Bison vs. Beef: Nutrition Facts

The most significant difference between these two meats is fat content. Bison will have less fat than similar cuts of beef, which gives it a lower calorie count per serving. So for those watching calories, bison may be the better choice.

The following table represents the nutritional differences between a four-ounce serving of bison and beef. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there are varying cuts of each. Some cuts or beef, for example, can be leaner.

Nutrient Bison Beef
Calories 166 224
Protein 24 grams (g) 22 grams (g)
Fat 8 g 14 g
Saturated Fat 3 g 6 g
Iron 13% DV 12.5% DV
Zinc 35% DV 46% DV
Selenium 31% DV 35% DV
Vitamin B12 68% DV 161% DV
Vitamin B6 19% DV 16% DV
Vitamin B(Niacin) 28% DV 43% DV

Both options are clearly great sources of a variety of nutrients and relatively similar in what they provide.

Because both are red meat, recommendations for consumption don’t change. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting red meat intake to a maximum of 18 ounces per week.

Both varieties can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation in unprocessed forms. Bison, however, is likely to cost you considerably more than beef.

Bison vs. Beef: The Health Benefits

Is there a major health benefit to choosing bison over beef, or vice versa? For healthy individuals with no special caloric needs, from a nutritional standpoint, not really. The two are simply too similar to declare that one offers benefits the other does not.

However, as we noted earlier, bison is naturally leaner than beef. If your health status requires you to carefully count calories or eat fewer omega-6 fatty acids to improve your omega ratio, bison is a better choice. It is lower in calories and saturated fat, and generally contains more omega-3 and less omega-6 than grain-fed beef.

Below we examine the benefits of each based on their nutritional content.


Beef and bison are both excellent sources of protein. Protein plays a major role in tissue growth and hormone production. It helps maintain muscle, which is extremely important in preventing conditions like sarcopenia, osteoporosis, and maintaining independent functionality.

B Vitamins

Animal food products are a great source of B vitamins that play a number of roles in health. They help produce energy, improve brain function, promote cell healthy and help oxygenate blood.

Iron, Selenium, and Zinc

Each of these essential minerals plays a number of important roles in the body.

Iron helps to form red blood cells, which transport oxygenated blood throughout your body. Adequate iron intake promotes higher energy and improved focus.

Selenium is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Zinc helps keep your immune system strong so you can fight illness.

Agricultural Practices

A couple of differences can be attributed to farming practices. Most of the beef for sale is grain-fed and bred on industrial farms. Modern beef farming tactics involve feeding cattle high-calorie grains (corn, etc.) so they bulk up much faster than they would if they were grass-fed on a pasture.

The cows are also kept in extremely close quarters and given antibiotics to prevent disease outbreaks, while they may also be given additional hormones to promote growth.

Potential health implications for humans may be antibiotic resistance and higher omega-6 intake. However, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest serious health implications of eating moderate amounts of grain-fed, unprocessed beef.

Grass-fed meat, whether it is beef or bison, can contain as much as five times the omega-3 fatty acids as grain-fed beef. Because bison are grass-fed on pastures at this moment, the meat is likely higher in omega-3. Currently, all bison meat is free of antibiotics and added hormones, as per federal regulations.

How to Cook Bison

Individual cuts of bison are the same as beef, but they have a slightly different appearance. Because it is leaner, there is less fat marbling. Bison may have a deeper red color that can almost look purple.

Since there is less fat, cooking times will be slightly shorter than beef. Overcooking bison can make it tough and unenjoyable, so you monitor your heat.

Ground bison: Ground bison should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 F and juices should be clear, not red. Bison roasts and steaks should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F for medium rare and 160 F for medium. Oven temperature should be around 275 F. Ground bison cooked to medium rare is best for burgers.

Bison steak: If broiling a bison steak, it will cook in about one-third the time of beef and it’s not recommended to cook beyond medium. The steaks taste best when cooked rare to medium.

Bison roast: A bison roast, cooked at 275, will take about the same amount of time as a beef roast of a similar size.

Store bison in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Steaks and roasts that are still in their original packaging can be kept safely for up to four days, while fresh ground bison can be kept for two.

Bison Burger Recipe

If you’re looking for an alternative to a beef burger, bison is definitely worth a try. Here’s a recipe for a bison burger.


  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp bold mustard
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste


  1. Add oil to a frying pan, and heat over medium heat. Sauté onion until it’s golden brown and soft, for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the onion cooks, mix together breadcrumbs, egg, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Pour in onions, stirring gently. Then add bison and mix until just combined.
  3. Gently shape the meat mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick burgers.
  4. Place burgers on greased grill over medium heat and close lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning once, until no longer pink inside and digital thermometer inserted sideways into center reads 160°F.

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