Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New England Buffalo Farmer Sees Bright Future ; as the Lean Red Meat Gains Popularity, Some Consumers Consider It a Bit Too Exotic

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New England Buffalo Farmer Sees Bright Future ; as the Lean Red Meat Gains Popularity, Some Consumers Consider It a Bit Too Exotic

Article excerpt

Ten years ago, Brian Farmer was cramming for his SATs, making plans for the senior prom, and hanging out with friends, like a typical teenager. Unlike his New Hampshire classmates, however, he was also simultaneously launching a buffalo ranch.

On pasture fields leased from his family in Hillsboro, in southern New Hampshire, five of the massive, dusky animals - so redolent of the Old West - became the focus of his fledgling farm, christened the Yankee Farmer's Market.

Now averaging 35 head, Mr. Farmer's small ranch, which he runs with his wife, Keira, is a veteran of the bison industry, in a region where the meat largely remains a curiosity.

"I think some people around here thought I was a little nuts when we started, and that it wouldn't last long," says Farmer, smiling modestly. But his student loans at the University of New Hampshire were paid back before an engineering degree was completed, thanks to mail-order bison steaks.

Several big bulls in his herd - 1,300-pound animals with wooly coats and thick, pointed horns - gather at the fence of the 16 acres of pasture as Farmer tosses some hay into troughs. They are a free- range herd, and feed on natural grasses, grain, and hay. They're often docile, but can certainly be dangerous. When Farmer says he has his hands full with tending the herd, you believe him. But he says the real trick is marketing his bison steaks, roasts, and sausages to a sometimes squeamish public.

Ted Turner's restaurant chain

Farmer and other proponents of bison - synonymous with buffalo - say that taste for the meat is steadily growing. Supply, however, currently far exceeds demand. There are about 350,000 animals on private and public land across America, roughly one-tenth of them owned by media mogul Ted Turner. And each year, much of the meat goes unsold. In fact, the federal government has bought unsold buffalo meat from ranchers two years out of the last three. …

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