Bison may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Bison are indigenous to North America and have long served as a critical component of the food and culture there. Once ubiquitous in the American grasslands with a population in the tens of millions, the bison population was decimated as a result of their massacre by colonizers pushing westward in the late 1800s. These days, the bison population is in recovery and bison meat is growing in popularity, partly as the result of farmers who are marketing the animal as lean red meat with health benefits.
Charles, 7 months, eats bison for the first time.
Quentin, 9 months, eats a bison patty with yogurt
Callie, 13 months, eats a bison burger.
Yes. Bison is a protein-packed food that provides the building blocks and energy that babies need to fuel their rapid growth. It also offers essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, choline, and vitamins B6 and B12. Together, these nutrients work to prevent anemia, ensure healthy metabolism, support growth and development, and build a strong immune system. Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting around the 6-month mark, when their reserves become depleted, and bison offers more iron than many other meats.
At first, aim for minimally processed cuts of bison, such as steaks, stew meat, or ground bison and avoid products like jerky, dried meat bars and sticks, and other cured or smoked bison. These products are best reserved until after the first birthday due to high sodium levels.
★Tip: Like all ground meat, ground bison is more susceptible to harmful bacteria and as such it should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C). Bison steaks and other cuts of bison have a lower safe cooking temperature (145 F or 63 C) because there is less risk. Since bison can be leaner than other red meats, it can easily become overcooked. Cooking bison in a braise, sauce, or stew can help keep the meat tender.
Yes. Meat is a common cause of choking for adults and children alike, so make sure to prepare bison in an age-appropriate way. To minimize the risk, refrain from serving bison meat in chunks or cubes. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
No. Bison is not a common food allergen, although allergies to meat, including bison, have been reported. Note that certain tick bites (mainly the Lone Star tick in the continental United States, but other ticks in different parts of the world), are associated with the development of an allergy to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (“alpha gal”), a sugar which is present in all non-primate mammalian meat. This results in a delayed allergic reaction 3-8 hours after red meat, such as bison, is consumed. However, some individuals with alpha gal allergy also react to small amounts of the sugar present in dairy products, gelatin, or organ tissues (such as liver) from mammals.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings and watch closely as baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over time.
Babies can eat meatballs starting at 6 months of age as long as the meatballs are thoroughly cooked, soft, and at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The bigger the meatball, the less likely that baby will pop the whole thing in their mouth. The softer the meatball, the lower the risk of choking: to soften meatballs, cook them in sauce or stew or mix softening ingredients into the meatball batter, such as breadcrumbs, cooked grains, or nut or seed flours. Take care with pre-cooked or store-bought frozen meatballs: they are often high in sodium, as well as small (closer in size to a baby’s mouth) and firm, qualities that increase the risk of choking. When sharing these types of meatballs with babies, minimize the risk of choking by breaking the meatballs into tiny crumbles to mix into a soft, scoopable food, such as mashed vegetables, porridge, or yogurt.
Meatballs can cause gagging as they fall apart in the mouth, and if the meat is dry, it can stick to the roof of the mouth, leading to more intense gagging and even a vomit. If this happens, try to stay calm and give baby the opportunity to work the food forward on their own. As babies munch on a large meatball, they may break down the food into smaller sizes. If the smaller size makes you nervous, simply take away the smaller piece and replace it with a new, large meatball. You can also break the pieces into crumbles and mix them into another food, such as mashed potatoes, any puree or mash, or yogurt.
When making or purchasing meatballs to share with baby, watch the sodium levels. Some recipes or meatball products have sodium levels in excess of what babies need. Finally, know that meatballs may contain various common allergens, including dairy, egg, sesame, and wheat. Be sure to read the labels on store-bought prepared foods and safely introduce any allergens to the child before sharing the prepared food.
Wait until at least 24 months of age and only offer jerky if you are confident in the child’s eating abilities. Look for signs of mature eating skills, such as taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, and not stuffing food in their mouths. The ability to identify and spit out food when it is not well chewed is also critical. Even when the child is exhibiting these skills, we recommend coaching the child, as jerky can include connective tissue that can’t be fully broken down and may need to be spit out and is generally challenging to chew. Only serve jerky when a child is seated in an upright seat, actively engaged in mealtime, and not distracted. Do not serve jerky in a stroller, car seat, or while the toddler is on the move (walking around). For more information on how to introduce challenging foods to toddlers, see our guide Teaching Children How to Eat High-Risk Foods.
No. In general, bison is rich in protein and lacks fiber, qualities that typically slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
Mix ground bison that has been cooked well-done into an easy-to-scoop food like mashed vegetables, porridge, or yogurt. Avoid serving crumbles of ground meat on their own, as they can pose a higher risk of choking. Alternatively, prepare burgers, meatballs, or patties that are at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 160 F (71 C). Make sure the cooked burger or meatball is soft enough to be easily smushed by baby’s gums. To test if it is soft enough, hold it between your thumb and pointer finger and give it a gentle squeeze. Dipping the patties in applesauce, guacamole, yogurt, or other sauces can aid swallowing.
Alternatively, offer bison steak on the bone with big chunks of meat and fat removed or offer well-done steak cut into thick strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together. Before offering bison strips to baby, remove any loose chunks of meat or pieces of fat. At this age, baby will mostly just suck and gnaw on the meat strip. If baby succeeds in biting off a big piece, take a deep breath, stay calm, and give the child a chance to work with the food. In most cases, if the piece of food is too big, baby will spit it out or the gag reflex will help thrust it forward and out of the mouth. If the child needs assistance getting the piece of food out of the mouth, gently tilt them forward and put your hand beneath their chin to indicate they can spit out the food.
Break bison meatballs, burgers, or patties into small, bite-sized pieces to create an opportunity for babies to practice their pincer grasp and fine motor skills. If baby is not quite ready to pick up smaller pieces of food, continue to offer ground bison in sauces or as whole burgers, meatballs, or patties that are at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and cooked until the internal temperature has reached 160 F (71 C). As for bison steaks, this is a good time to move down in size to finely chopped or shredded meat.
Serve shredded bison steak or thin strips of bison steak cut into bite-sized pieces dipped in sauce to keep the meat tender, either on their own or as part of a meal. Avoid cubes of meat, as these continue to pose a high risk of choking. You can also offer meatballs or patties cut up into bite-sized pieces as finger food or fork practice. Dipping the meat in a sauce can aid swallowing. If a big piece of meat breaks off in the mouth, coach the child to spit the food out by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “ah” repeatedly. At this age, bison sausage may also be served in moderation—just make sure to cut the sausage lengthwise in halves or quarters so it is no longer round.
This age can be a good time to serve a whole bison burger as a sandwich with a bun and other toppings, rather than deconstructed with the bun and patty consumed separately. Continue to cook the meat until it has reached an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C). At this stage, you may also try serving razor-thin strips of bison steak on their own to encourage chewing practice.
Serve burgers and meatballs made from bison, and offer shreds, bite-sized pieces, and long, thin strips of bison steaks. Around this age, children may be ready to try bison jerky, but make sure to model how to eat this challenging food and coach the child on how to eat it safely.
Spice up your dinner rotation with our 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.
½ lb (227 g) ground bison
¼ c (60 ml) low-sodium breadcrumbs
1 tsp (2 g) paprika (optional)
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 large tomato (optional)
1 avocado (optional)
1 lime (optional)
1 burger bun (optional)
This recipe contains common allergens: egg and wheat (breadcrumbs, burger bun). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. Always check for potential allergens in ingredients listed on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as breadcrumbs and burger buns. Added ingredients may also include honey, which should not be given to babies younger than 12 months.
Defrost frozen meat in the refrigerator the day before you plan to cook the burgers.
Mash the bison meat, breadcrumbs, egg, and paprika until combined.
Shape the burgers: create one for baby that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, then season the rest of the meat with a pinch of salt and shape it into a burger for yourself.
Set a large cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat. Add the oil, then lay the burgers in the skillet. Sear the burgers until they are starting to brown on the bottom (about 2 minutes) then flip the burgers to lightly sear the other side.
Add ¼ c (60 ml) of water and cover the skillet. The steam helps soften the burgers for babies. If you are cooking for toddlers or older children, it’s okay to skip this step and cook the burgers uncovered until the burgers are fully cooked.
After 6 minutes, uncover the skillet and check that the burgers are fully cooked. Use a food thermometer to read the internal temperature of the burgers. They are done when the meat has reached 160 F (71 C). If you do not have a food thermometer, test the burgers: they are ready when a knife inserted into the thickest part reveals no pink meat.
While the burgers cool, prepare toppings: mash avocado with lime juice, cut tomato into slices for your burger and age-appropriate sizes for the child, and toast the bun for your burger. Feel free to swap these topping ideas for your favorites.
Serve the Burger
Offer a deconstructed burger (patty, avocado, and tomato) to baby and let them self-feed. If help is needed, hold a piece of food in the air in front of baby, then let them grab it from you.
If you are sharing with toddlers, and you want to offer the whole burger, go ahead. The burger may fall apart as the child tries to eat, and that’s okay. It is part of the learning process.
Eat your burger alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Cooked burgers keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Bison can be gamey and slightly sweeter than other red meats, so it pairs well with bell pepper, chipotle, cranberries, nutmeg, spaghetti squash, and sweet potato.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Sign up for new guides, recipes and special offers
The content offered on SolidStarts.com is for informational purposes only. Solidstarts is not engaged in rendering professional advice, whether medical or otherwise, to individual users or their children or families. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or your medical or health professional, nutritionist, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. By accessing the content on SolidStarts.com, you acknowledge and agree that you are accepting the responsibility for your child’s health and well-being. In return for providing you with an array of content “baby-led weaning” information, you waive any claims that you or your child may have as a result of utilizing the content on SolidStarts.com.