When can babies eat bison?
Bison may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. At this stage in their lives, babies (and especially breastfed babies) need lots of iron, protein, and zinc on a regular basis. Bison delivers these essential nutrients in spades.
Background and origins of bison
Unlike cattle, which were brought to North America by Dutch, European, and Spanish colonists, bison are indigenous to North America. As America’s first red meat, bison was once ubiquitous on our grasslands, with a population in the tens of millions in the late 1800s.1
These days, bison is making a comeback, and farmers are marketing the animal as lean red meat with health benefits. While some grocery stores carry fresh or frozen bison meat, you’re more likely to see it in processed form, such as a jerky stick or a dehydrated bar. If your local market doesn’t carry bison, fresh or frozen bison meat can be ordered online from specialty food retailers.
Is bison healthy for babies?
Yes! Bison rocks the nutrition charts. Of all the meats, bison is one of the richest sources of protein and boasts high levels of iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12, which act as energy boosters that metabolize protein in our bodies. As an added bonus, bison is often pasture-raised (unlike feedlot cattle) though most animals are “finished” on grain.2
Is bison a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Meat is a common cause of choking and must be prepared in an age-appropriate way for your baby. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions. Never serve cubes or chunks of meat to your baby.
Is bison a common allergen?
No. Bison meat is not a common food allergen, though in theory, one could be allergic to any food. For this reason, it’s best to start with small amounts if you believe your baby may have meat sensitivities or allergies.
How do you prepare bison for babies with baby-led weaning?
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.
6 to 8 months old: Try serving well-done, thick strips of bison steak with any loose fat/gristle removed. Ironically at this age, the bigger and more resistive the food, the easier and safer it is for your baby to suck and munch on. Surprisingly, your baby will consume a decent amount of nutrients just by sucking on the meat. If your baby is able to tear off pieces of the meat while munching, move on to ground patties.
9 to 12 months old: Serve ground bison in the form of a patty (as a finger food) alongside applesauce or yogurt, which will add moisture and aid swallowing. If a too-big piece of meat breaks off in your baby’s mouth, try not to intervene and instead coach your baby to spit out the piece of meat by dramatically sticking out your own tongue and saying “ah” repeatedly.
12 to 24 months old: Continue with ground bison patties or minced bison mixed into other food. At this stage, you may also try serving small, razor-thin pieces of bison steak on its own to encourage chewing practice.
Bison is lower in fat than many of its red meat counterparts. Add a generous pour of healthy oil (such as avocado, olive, safflower, or sunflower oil) to the pan when cooking to avoid scorching the meat.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Bison Burgers
- Ground bison
- Shallot or onion
- Olive oil
- Egg (optional)
- Breadcrumbs (optional)
- Lemon juice (optional)
- Sweet paprika (optional)
- If the bison meat is frozen, defrost it on a plate in your refrigerator (never on the counter) for several hours or overnight.
- Finely chop 1 shallot or ½ onion. Sauté with a splash of olive oil in a skillet on medium low heat. While the onion is cooking, finely chop 1 clove of garlic and add it to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Place 1 pound of ground bison in a bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic and set the skillet aside for later use. Mix the meat, onion, and garlic together with your hands. It’s not necessary, but at this stage, you could also add an egg and some breadcrumbs for extra flavor. For older babies, try adding spices, such as coriander or cumin.
- Form the meat mixture into small patties. Cook in the skillet over medium heat. For faster cooking, cover the skillet while the patties are cooking. After a few minutes, flip the patties. To test for readiness, cut one patty in half and make sure it’s well done, with no pink meat inside. Let cool. Set side a couple patties for your baby’s meal, and store the rest in a sealed container in the freezer for easy reheating at future mealtimes.
- Serve the patties with applesauce, Greek yogurt, or mayonnaise as a dip. For added flavor, try whisking in a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sweet paprika to the dip.
Bison can be gamey and slightly sweeter than other red meats. It can easily serve as a substitute for ground beef or turkey in almost any recipe. Try serving bison in casseroles, chilis, and stews. Spices that pair well include coriander, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, and thyme.
- Shaw, J. (1995, October). How Many Bison Originally Populated the Western Rangelands? Rangelands, 17(5), 140-150. Retrieved January 21, 2020
- Wasser, C. (2016, July 26). A Modern Bison Primer. Civil Eats. Retrieved January 21, 2020