New informational materials available from the National Bison Association is trying again to set the record straight regarding the presence of cattle genetics in bison herds in the United States.
It's published a new fact sheet entitled "What's all the Bull About Crossing Bison and Beef?"
The publication explains the commitment that today's ranchers have to the integrity of bison genetics, and also provides information regarding events that occurred as bison teetered on the brink of extinction in the late 1800s.
DNA tests on more than 30,000 bison conducted by Texas A&M University in recent years have found evidence of cattle genetics in roughly 6% of the animals tested.
The traces of cattle genetics in some bison is largely the result of a brief experiment conducted by five ranchers who helped gather up the remnants of the once-vast bison herds in the late 1800s, according to the fact sheet.
"Some of those ranchers experimented briefly with crossing bison with cattle in the hope of creating a hearty crossbreed. They discovered instead that the crossbred animals were highly infertile, had problems calving, and generally performed poorly. The ranchers soon dropped the experiment," the fact sheet notes.
Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, says that the new educational materials were developed to clear up confusion for bison consumers.
"Mother Nature spent thousands of years perfecting this animal to be an integral part of the environment-and the diet-of the people of North America. Our association's Code of Ethics explicitly prohibits members from crossbreeding bison with other species because we know that bison should be bison. And, we know that our customers are purchasing bison meat because it is something unique."
Carter also notes that the genetic testing underway indicates that bison without cattle genetics tend to be larger and heavier than those animals that show evidence of cattle DNA.
"Bison are well-suited to the types of grasses, and the climate, in this part of the world. Bison ranchers know that the best way to manage these animals is to leave them alone as much as possible," Carter says.
The new information regarding bison genetics is available here.