Cow Meat Versus Buffalo Meat: What’s the Difference?

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By J. E. Hinners, MD MPH

buffaloOk, let’s set the record straight up front–I realize there are those who insist on using the terminology “bison” rather than “buffalo,” and there’s good reason for this insistence. These animals are, in fact, different animals.

Buffalo have prominent horns and are mostly found grazing in the grasslands of both Africa and Asia:


American bison have massive heads and humped shoulders and can be found in the West:


American bison are actually the animal that is being referred to when the more common terminology “buffalo meat” comes up.

So to be technically correct, let’s call these majestic creatures “bison” in this discussion.

And then we have the COW…

(in case you didn’t know what this exotic creature looks like):


So now that we just might get a perfect score on a picture-matching test, what’s the nutritional difference between cow and bison meat?






Total Calories






Fatty Acids

  • Bison has less fat, less cholesterol, and fewer total calories than beef.
  • Bison also has more protein, more iron, and more polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as the healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) than beef.

Both meats contain zero carbohydrates and are comparably rich in the B vitamins (beef contains slightly more B6 and B12 than bison but bison contains more of the other B vitamins than beef). Beef contains more sodium and folate than bison. Bison contains more magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, and vitamin E than beef.

Some other differences

  • Bison more commonly graze on grasses for food while cows are usually grain-fed
  • Bison meat is more likely to be organic than beef; industry regulations don’t permit routine antibiotic or hormone use in bison while cattle are often given such treatment and supplements
  • Bison tends to cost more than beef
  • Bison cooks faster than beef due to its lower fat content
  • This author thinks that bison meat has a much richer, tastier flavor than beef!


If you haven’t tried bison meat before, it’s certainly worthwhile to give it a shot at your next opportunity. Your health and taste buds will thank you!

Nutritional data from the USDA Nutrient Database. “Basic Report 13317, Beef, ground, patties, frozen, cooked broiled” and “Basic Report 17331, Game meat, bison, ground, cooked, pan-broiled.” Report date: October 17, 2014

Bison Steak & Burger Sampler Pack

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