24 January 2013

The Bison Burger

2013 has been, so far, a year of new discoveries. Well, of one discovery. And actually, I discovered this last year, but the ramifications have been rippling outward ever since. I have often seen “Bison Burgers” listed on menus, but until December 2012, I had always assumed that in this context, “bison” only referred to a breed of cattle or a kind of beef, like “angus.” Admittedly, although being a lover of burgers, I know very little about them or the different kinds of beef that go into them (or even that there is such a thing as “a different kind of beef”). I certainly never imagined that we have the option of eating actual bison burgers, because if obsessively playing Oregon Trail throughout elementary school or looking at that picture of all those buffalo* skulls (and I always imagine Teddy Roosevelt standing on top of this, but I think I am just confusing this photo with the one of T-Roos and the elephant) has taught me anything, it’s that we have killed far too many bison and now they don’t exist. I personally used to kill several thousand pounds worth of bison, and as it would not all fit in my wagon, it was presumably left on the plains to rot.

Learning that bison burgers are actually made from bison was a strange moment for me. I was at once forced to acknowledge two pieces of information that I always carry with me, but that I have never once actually put together: 1) that yes, the European settlers did slaughter pretty much all the bison and then compiled their remains into a mountain of bones, and 2) that my elementary school music teacher breeds (or perhaps bred?) bison, so of course they must still exist and exist substantial enough numbers that would suggest we can make burgers out of bison meat. But the idea of bison burgers seems kind of grotesque and unnecessary to me. 
When I first looked at this finished product, I thought, Wow. What a
dream come true! A mountain of burgers!
But a mountain of burgers would
be so disgusting in reality. They would be so soggy and soft and you couldn't
actually perch atop them, like this gentleman is doing, because that soggy
mass of bread and meat couldn't possibly support your weight. And while
slowly sinking into a pit of old burgers isn't the worst fate, I think it's one I
would nevertheless meet with an annoyed "Ew."
I really want to stress here that I do not care where out meat comes from. If I were to care about the ethics of factory farming, then I would probably have to stop eating that meat, and I honestly cannot be bothered about animal welfare enough to even slightly complicate my life by paying more for or by tracking down a place that sells ethically raised meat. And yet, on one hand, I kind of feel like maybe we should just leave the bison alone because I don’t trust anyone to not slaughter them all at once in an orgiastic frenzy of gore, since that seems to be how we typically interact with bison. But on the other hand, even if we have developed a moderated way of rearing and slaughtering bison, I still don’t want to eat it. I wouldn’t eat a bison burger no matter how it was raised or where it came from or how much it cost because bison give me the impression of being too wild and too unkempt to actually eat. Thinking of them reminds me of that time Rory (and his family) came to sheer one of our alpacas (Tommy Tippy Toes, for the record), but in the end the alpaca hair (fur?) was too tangled and frizzy and full of various materials from our field to be useful to anyone and eventually it was all just thrown away, and the idea of trying to extract meat from a bison carcass makes me worry that the inevitable dust and old twigs would get into the meat and would remain there throughout the cooking process and that I would be forever pulling out random things out of the burger. And also? Bison burgers are just one more food on a long list of foods that I absolutely do not need in my life. Why would I need to supplement my beef burger intake with bison burgers? I am always worrying that I am not eating nearly enough burgers as it is, and I approach every burger opportunity with relish (not with actual pickle-relish, because that is disgusting) and am not willing to sacrifice even one of these occasions in favour of trying a different kind of burger that I already know to be totally redundant and superfluous because I have already discovered the burgers that I like.

*I am only learning now that buffalo and bison are not the same animal. I always thought that bison was the plural form of buffalo.

Everyone says bison is better than beef:
More vitamins, leaner meat, and environmental relief.
But I don’t care enough about the ethics of factory farming
to eat a bison burger--what I consider to be a form of self-harming
Besides, you don’t have to act the act just to look the look:

Simply present an ethical image of yourself for all to see on facebook.


  1. My main beef with your argument is that bison is just so extra delicious. I have never gotten around to finding out whether there actually IS any legit claim to ethical, nutritional, or ecological superiority. It's like someone put maple syrup in the ground beef!

    Also, I think you might be over looking an interesting political angle here. You talk about European settlers slaughtering the bison without any mention of the only context that has ever really made this worth pointing out, and that is its role in wiping out... could this be a case of appropriating Native culture or something?

    I'm so hungry. And I am not the one who wrote "buzi-bison". That was most likely Patrice.