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water buffalo closeup CarlaMc/Getty Images
BUFFALOED: Meat from water buffalo is being sold in the use as “wild buffalo” and “free range buffalo,” much to the ire of the National Bison Association.

Bison group cries foul over water buffalo marketing

Some retail markets are selling water buffalo as 'free range' and 'wild' buffalo.

First there was “milk” on sale in grocery stores that was not milk. Now there is “buffalo” being sold that’s not really what most people in the U.S. think of as buffalo.

The National Bison Association recently launched an online petition asking the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration to immediately develop new labeling policies to stop water buffalo products sold in the U.S. from being labeled only as "buffalo."

The petition effort was launched after the National Bison Association learned of a growing number of retail stores carrying water buffalo meat that is labeled only as "wild buffalo" or "free range buffalo."

"Our ranchers and marketers have worked hard over the past two decades to build a relationship with our customers that is built upon quality and trust,” says Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. "That trust is threatened by water buffalo products coming into the market disguised as bison."

North Americans have been describing bison as buffalo for more than three centuries, Carter says.

"The Buffalo nickel, Buffalo Bill Cody and buffalo soldiers are all terms that illustrate how deeply embedded the word 'buffalo' is to describe North American bison," he says. "Customers deserve to know whether the products they are buying are bison or water buffalo."    

A delegation of bison ranchers has scheduled a meeting with the two agencies in Washington, D.C., next month to push for immediate action on that request.   

"In the meantime, we want to demonstrate the public's support for this important truth-in-labeling request," Carter says. "That's why we launched our online petition." People can access the petition by going to and typing "water buffalo" into the search feature.    

Officials in charge of U.S. pet food labeling are already working on new rules to address similar misleading labeling in pet food and treat products.    

"USDA and FDA need to follow the lead of the pet food regulators on this issue," Carter says.

Source: National Bison Association

TAGS: Marketing
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