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Derek Larson, Environmental Studies


Give me a home where the buffalo roam maybe a catchy tune from the 1800s, but it no longer represents the landscape of the American Midwest. As large-scale corporate farms invade the prairie with row crops and cattle yards, they are chasing away family practices as well as the antelope. Could bison, the original red meat, be a successful meat alternative? The argument that bison would be preferable to beef is based upon four premises: bison are better for the environment, healthier for human consumption, easier to manage, and similar in land needs. Based on these four premises, bison appears to be a positive choice yet there are few operations. This paper evaluates the cultural and economic barriers present in this industry. Through four site visits and numerous phone interviews, analysis reveals agriculture to be an unforgiving, risky, and unstable market. With farms going out of business and the market moving towards industrialization, families are walking a fine line between profit and failure which makes the initial leap to a new industry difficult. This could be mitigated with financial assurance or assistance such as a carbon cap-and-trade and programs working to improve niche markets.

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