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Home on the Range

It's time for beef to make room for something leaner

Sam Gugino
Posted: September 27, 2000

Home on the Range

It's time for beef to make room for something leaner

By Sam Gugino

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Would you sell your soul, your firstborn or perhaps that case of 1982 Château Le Pin if you could eat delicious red meat that had less fat and fewer calories than skinless chicken? Well, you don't have to do any of those things. Just start eating buffalo or ostrich, two alternative red meats that are turning up on restaurant menus all over the nation. Even emu is making inroads.

So far, buffalo has gotten the most attention. Because these animals don't store intramuscular fat, they are much leaner than cattle. And yet they are actually bovines, as cattle are, unrelated to old-world cape and water buffalo. A 3.5-ounce serving of cooked "bison" -- the preferred term -- contains 2.42 grams of fat and 143 calories. This compares quite favorably to beef, which has 9.28 grams of fat and 211 calories, and skinless chicken, which has 7.41 grams of fat and 190 calories. Ostrich is healthier still: A 3-ounce portion has only 2 grams of fat and 96 calories. Emu has a similar nutritional profile. But these "new meats" don't taste like health food.

"The flavor of buffalo is incredible. Customers tell me it's better than beef," says Franois Fotre, chef and owner of La Mirabelle, a popular Dallas bistro where bison fillets are prepared au poivre or with a bordelaise or horseradish sauce. At the Ritz-Carlton in Tyson's Corner, Va., executive chef Eric Chopin cooks ostrich fillets wrapped in apple-smoked bacon and serves them with an orange Shiraz sauce. "People are scared of beef now. We tell them that ostrich is a very lean red meat that doesn't have the fat or hormones found in beef," he says.

When choosing a wine, stay away from tannins -- there isn't enough fat in these meats to fend them off. Ripe, berry-flavored wines like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel are ideal, as is California Cabernet. You could also try a cru Beaujolais, such as a Moulin á Vent, or a mature red Bordeaux or Côtes du Rôhne. With all that red wine and lean meat, you may put your cardiologist out of business.

Sam Gugino, Wine Spectator's Tastes columnist, is the author of Cooking to Beat the Clock.

How to Get It

Buffalo costs about $7 to $8 a pound for ground meat and $25 to $30 a pound for filet mignon. Ostrich and emu range from about $4 a pound for ground meat to about $12 a pound for fan fillet.

Business Location Phone Number Web Site
American Bison Co. Jackson, Wyo. (888) 302-4766 americanbison.com
American Emu Association Dallas (800) 304-8768 aea-emu.org
Angelo Brothers Meat Market (bison, ostrich) Philadelphia (215) 923-5637 dangelobros.com
D'Artagnan (bison, ostrich) Newark, N.J. (800) 327-8246 dartagnan.com
Cattle Creek Ranch (bison, ostrich) Delton, Mich. (888) 898-2333 cattlecreek.com
National Bison Association Denver (303) 292-2833 bisoncentral.com
Thunder Ridge (emu) Manassas, Va. (800) 457-0617 none
Urbani USA (bison, ostrich) Long Island City, N.Y. & Culver City, Calif. (800) 281-2330 urbani.com

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