Eating Bison

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Meat lovers, get ready. The other red meat is on the way.

Buffalo meat sales are growing as Americans search for healthier foods and alternatives in their high-protein diets. Commercial bison slaughter last year hit record 34,044 animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that is up 36-percent from the previous year.

While the numbers are tiny compared with the nearly 36 million cattle slaughter, buffalo markets are finding more interest.

Montana is the nation's top buffalo producing state but Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and the Dakotas also have big herds. The commercial US buffalo herd is estimated at 270,000 animals.

Media pioneer Ted Turner raises some of his buffalo in Nebraska. He has 19 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants in six states marketing buffalo products. Another 18 are to open this year.

Smoky Hill Bison Company in Kansas also is marketing grass-fed buffalo direct from the farm to homes via Internet sales.

Another boost came last year from the USDA's $10 million purchase of buffalo meat for school lunch and government nutrition programs.