Bison producers may come under fire: expert

QUEBEC CITY — The public perceives bison to be a healthier meat choice than beef or poultry but how long will that last?

Richard Raymond, former undersecretary for food safety with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, put that question to bison producers at the July 25-27 International Bison Conference.

The food safety consultant speculated that if the bison industry grows into mass production like the cattle industry, consumer perceptions of health might fall by the wayside.

“Will the perception be reality in 10 or 20 years? That’s a question I throw out to you folks that are in the industry. Right now, I think the perception is reality, but will that change as time evolves?”

Raymond warned bison producers about situations eliciting negative media coverage, such as the recent “pink slime” controversy that eliminated the use of finely textured beef in hamburger, forced a company out of business and eliminated 630 jobs.

“Pink slime can happen to any industry and you folks need to be aware of that,” said Raymond.

He suggested the bison industry might one day become a target of animal rights advocates who lobby against meat production and consumption.

“When will they stand up and say the bison used to roam the plains of Canada and America in swaths miles wide, and the angle that we almost eliminated that herd from the face of the earth. Now it’s coming back. Why are we still killing them or eating them?

“Someday, someone will pick that up, I expect.”

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