Want To Work In A Growing Industry? Chuck It All And Go Raise Some Bison.

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

Tired of your urban rush-hour traffic? Sick of your 21st-century-style desk job? Looking for a change into something… furrier? Well the bison industry has a suggestion for you: have you considered ditching your day job and taking up bison farming?

This may sound odd to folks who are old enough to remember when we were little children being taught that bison were almost extinct, and would clutch our Zoobooks and gasp with horror at the idea of eating any. But, after enduring a crash around 2002-2003, the bison industry has been going only up, and it needs help.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, bison ranching trade groups, and the retailers that sell their goods, really want to keep growing. But for that they need, well, people. People who are okay with wrangling furry Buicks.

One bison rancher told the WSJ that it’s “like sticking bobcats in gunnysacks,” adding, “If you can run into it at 35 miles per hour with your pickup and it’s still standing, [then] you’ve got a pen that’ll hold a bison.”

And yet someone, clearly, needs to get on that. Bison sales are up 22% in the last few years, and bison burgers and steaks are starting to become the hot trendy offering at a whole bunch of restaurants and grocery stores.

Whole Foods’ global meat buyer confirmed to the WSJ that they want more, more, more: “I’d love to do a feature on ground buffalo or seasoned buffalo burgers,” he said, “But if the supply is not there, we can’t feature it.”

Hear that, would-be ranchers? The demand exists — so there’s probably money in creating supply.

The Bison Association, a bison farming trade and lobbying group, recently lobbied the USDA to help get bison rangers get access to disaster relief funds and funds for building appropriate fencing, which has helped.

The press is apparently working: the Bison Association’s membership has climbed about 25% in the last six years, and the organization’s director told the WSJ that about a fifth of the attendees at a recent conference were newbies. They’re also sensibly targeting cattle ranchers, since the beef market can be prone to volatility and there’s a lot of transferrable experience between the two.

Prospective ranchers, though, would do well to remember that not all demand is constant. An excess of supply from enthusiastic new alpaca farmers a few years back led to the collapse of the alpaca bubble which, while being an amazingly amusing thing to say, was actually a serious problem that led to a lot of lost money and neglected animals.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the scientific name of the animal is bison bison bison, which is delightful and didn’t fit anywhere else in the story.

Bison Industry Drives to Recruit Ranchers as Demand Climbs [Wall Street Journal]

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