Petfood Industry - February 2018 - 24
24 | www.PetfoodIndustry.com
➥ELK, BISON COULD REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF PET FOOD
Although kept on ranches, bison retain many of their
instinctual behaviors. DMPhoto, BigStockPhoto.com
Elk and bison in pet food
Two decades ago, bison ranchers mostly marketed
tenderloins, ribeyes and strip steaks, resulting in freezers full
of unsold chuck, roasts, trim and co-products, said Carter,
but now demand for every part of the animal is growing.
"The demand for bison in pet food is creating strong
demand for hearts and livers as well," said Carter.
Likewise with elk, butchers use everything but the bugle
(elks' call), to paraphrase pig farmers who use everything
but the squeal.
"Elk's large carcasses yield hundreds of pounds of meat
that is highly desired in North America," said Brenda
Hartkopf of the Elk Breeders Association. "Hard antler
traditionally was used for antler décor but now the dog chew
market has taken the elk industry by storm. In addition to its
delicious taste, the meat is high in protein and low in both
fat and cholesterol."
Ecological advantages of elk and bison
Some scientists and sustainability advocates have pointed
out the pollution and resource use resulting from domesticated livestock, particularly cattle. For example, research
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences concluded that reducing beef consumption, more
than any other meat, would mitigate the environmental
damage resulting from human diets.
However, North American elk and bison ranchers may
have a much smaller negative effect, because the animals
evolved in harmony with the American ecosystem. Elk and
bison were once widespread throughout what is now the
United States, Canada and even northern Mexico, in the case
of the bison. Hunting and habitat loss dramatically reduced
the range and populations of both species.
Elk and bison farms help wildlife
"In the 1880s, bison teetered on the brink of extinction, with
an estimated 750 remaining in North America," said Carter.
"Today, the North American population is estimated at 400,000
head, with more than 90 percent on farms and ranches."
In the past few decades, efforts by conservationists
and others have restored both species to fragments of
their former range. Along with reintroduction to the wild,
ranchers now raise bison and elk to supply the human and
pet food industry with meat.
"To be clear, domestic elk ranching is separate from freeranging elk," said Hartkopf. "It is illegal for an elk rancher