Steady demand keeps bison at profitable price

Consumer cap | If prices exceed $4 per pound, demand tends to slide

PONOKA, Alta. — It’s the kind of illustration that the executive director of the Canadian Bison Association never gets tired of showing.

Terry Kremeniuk said the graph that shows bison prices steadily increasing and now hovering around $4 a pound is just one more indication that the bison industry is in a healthy state.

Bison prices have slowly increased since their all-time low in 2003, when borders were closed because of BSE.

Prices reached $4 in 2011 and have stayed there for the last three years.

Thomas Ackermann, chair of Bison Producers of Alberta, said the recent price stability indicates a balance between supply and demand.

He said demand begins to slide when prices exceed $4 per lb. but booms when prices stay around $3.85 to $3.95 per lb.

“If it gets too expensive we won’t be able to sell it,” Ackermann said at the group’s convention.

“We’re seeing good times, but we can’t push it too far.”

The high demand for bison in the United States for feeding and slaughter is helping fuel high prices.

“There is strong demand for animals in the U.S., and they are paying the prices,” he said.

Exports to the U.S. increased to an estimated 16,200 head in 2013, up from 14,437 head in 2012 but down from its peak of 29,670 when Canada was dealing with a glut of bison after BSE.

Slightly more than 45,600 bison were slaughtered at federally in-spected packing plants in Canada and the U.S. in 2012 and slightly more than 48,600 last year. The slaughter numbers are down significantly from the high of 65,000 in 2008.

Kremeniuk said he isn’t sure what the numbers mean, but he believes there is a trend to fewer bison being slaughtered and more animals kept in the herd.

The national association doesn’t have a clear picture of the size of the country’s herd because it’s uncertain whether farmers were counting offspring when they reported cow numbers in the 2011 census. However, it is estimating the herd at about 150,000 head, which is down from its estimates of 200,000 in 2007.

“We have no real good numbers of how many bison there are,” Kremeniuk said.

The bison association plans to do its own bison census this year.

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