January 08, 2016

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American Bison: Can we sleep at night?

 

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When we first got the idea to produce and sell buffalo leather belts, wallets and accessories, we wanted to do it ethically and in a way that would be morally acceptable to the online buying public.  Actually, we wanted to make sure we didn't wind up in prison for participating in something illegal like, trading ivory, for instance!  We knew buffalo (actually, American Bison) leather was a beautifully grained, durable product that lent itself to all sorts of applications, but to us the word buffalo was shrouded in mystery and we, like most Americans, were in the dark.  Weren't they almost extinct and at the very least still endangered?  How could any good American kill an animal so sacred, so scarce, so synonymous with all that is good and wholesome be able to sleep at night?  After all, wasn't it like shooting a bald eagle, for crying out loud?

So, we did some homework and what we learned was surprising.  Yes, American bison were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1800's.  When the American settlers came here from Europe there were roughly 30 million bison roaming the prairies but by the turn of the century only about 1,000 remained.  But today, through careful management and modern farming methods more than 400,000 graze the pastures and grasslands on ranches and farms throughout the US.  It has been an amazing story of restoration.

What has spurned this comeback?  In a word - consumers.  Bison production as a food product began in about 1960 when ranchers learned that these animals can thrive on any type of grass and were resistant to nearly all disease, not to mention the meat was delicious and lower in fat and as high if not higher in nutrition that beef.  Since that time, more and more ranchers have gotten into the bison business.  In fact, the industry is experiencing phenomenal growth with the last six years showing double digit increase in production.  Raising bison for food has become a profitable and sustainable industry.  Another important thing to mention is that bison production is closely monitored and strictly controlled.   Groups like The National Buffalo Foundation work to insure responsible raising and humane slaughter of the animals.

Bison hides are a by-product of this growing industry, not the the chief product.  Rest assured, none of these magnificent animals is wasted just to make a belt or a key holder, but to support the growing demand for a highly nutritious food source and we will only source from reputable leather producers and only use vendors which promote and encourage the responsible and gentle treatment of these beautiful, iconic animals.

Greg Dallas and The BHL Team

 


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