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A Schism among Bison Farmers

In response to:

We're Living on Corn! from the June 28, 2007 issue

To the Editors:

Tim Flannery writes in his review of the Pollan and McKibben books [“We’re Living on Corn!,” NYR, June 28] regarding meat from corn-fed cattle: “…I’m now ordering buffalo.” He doesn’t seem to know that very likely the buffalo (bison) has also been fattened on corn. For over five years I replaced beef in our home with buffalo meat, bought at Trader Joe’s, assuming it was grass-fed. One day I read the package label to a friend, and was stunned (really) to read that the animals were corn-fed. The buffalo meat at Wild Oats is from corn-fed animals, but you can only find that out by going to the Web site listed on the package. The rationale is that people don’t like the taste, texture, etc., if it isn’t corn-fed. Duh? The only place I have found to buy meat from grass-fed bison locally is the Greenmarket at Union Square. As I understood the man from whom I buy this meat, there is a schism in the bison farmers, dividing those who respect the animal as a grass eater and those who want to do to it what has been done to beef cattle.

Julie North Chelminski

East Norwalk, Connecticut

Tim Flannery replies:

I am grateful to Ms. Chelminski for pointing out the error of my assumption about buffalo. News that buffalo is corn-fed in the US will surely place many in a quandary. Which, among the meat dishes available in US restaurants, offer a healthier and more ecologically sustainable alternative to corn-raised meat? As a frequent visitor to your country and perforce a frequent diner-out, I admit to being “stumped,” as we say in Australia (where, incidentally, much of our beef is grass-fed).

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