Facts on the Benefits of Buffalo

Environmental Benefits of Restoring Buffalo to the Plains

American buffalo are uniquely adapted to the conditions found in the Great Plains—far better adapted than the cattle that graze there in modern times. Compared to cattle, bison can tolerate more extreme temperatures, calve without supervision, create more meat on less (and less rich) grasses, reproduce longer, and produce more meat per carcass.

Buffalo are part of the ecosystem; not only do they do less damage to native prairie grasses, but restoring buffalo to the Great Plains also helps to restore and maintain the prairie ecosystem, since they eat different grasses at different times of the year. This rotation helps restore the root systems, which are critical carbon sinks. Buffalo drink less water and are more drought resistant. We also know that when buffalo are restored to the prairie, biodiversity is promoted. With the buffalo’s return, other wildlife—native plants and animals—reemerge as components of the ecosystem. 

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Buffalo Meat

Buffalo is a nutrient-dense, lean protein that contains mono and polyunsaturated fat, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. Buffalo is naturally low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. It is high in Vitamin B6, B12, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, potassium, riboflavin and niacin.

To see how buffalo meat compares to other protein sources, see below:

Buffalo Nutritional Comparison

(Source: TankaBar.com)

Economic Benefits of Producing Buffalo

The Pine Ridge Reservation, where NANF is headquartered, offers a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities that buffalo can bring. The 11,000-square mile (approximately 2.7 million acres) Pine Ridge Reservation is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the United States. According to the Oglala Sioux tribal statistics, approximately 1.7 million acres of this land are owned by the Tribe or by tribal members. Recent reports vary but the unemployment rate on Pine Ridge hovers between 80 and 85% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). There isn’t much in the way of industry, technology, or infrastructure on the Reservation to provide employment.

One of ILTF’s grantees, Village Earth, recently released a report that highlights the disparities between Indian producers and non-Indian producers in reservation communities. From Village Earth's study: "Today, nearly 60% of the Pine Ridge Reservation is being leased out by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), often times to non-tribal members. Despite the fact that lands allotted to Lakotas have been in the federal leasing system for several generations, over 70% of families on the reservation would like to live on and utilize their allotted lands. Statistics on income reveal that the total value of agricultural commodities produced on Native American Reservations in 2007 totaled over $2.1 Billion dollars, yet, only 16% of that income went to Native American farmers and ranchers." (Full report available here.)

Buffalo ranching offers a time-honored way for Indian people living in the Great Plains to earn a living while utilizing their own reservation lands and resources. In addition, full carcass utilization can drive affiliate industries that can put the blood, bones, hides and other buffalo offal to good use by artisans, food producers and others. 

Buffalo Restoration


Healthy Lands

Healthy People

Healthy Economies

The buffalo and the Great Plains were made for each other. No species is more suited to the huge prairie ecosystems than the buffalo.

Mark Tilsen, President and Co-Founder,
Native American Natural Foods