- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PECATONICA, Ill. (AP) - Native American tribes treated the bison as being capable of thought, communication and the expression of emotion. The hulking prairie giants were revered as providers of food, clothing and shelter, but when they were slaughtered and the tribes forced off their lands and onto reservations, the great circle was broken.

Today, there is a resurgence of interest in the bison and in Pecatonica. The Allen and Mary Asche family operate the Asche Bison & Pork Farm, producing select cuts of bison meat including roasts, steaks, ground bison and patties.

“Raising bison is something that I always wanted to try, and it helps that the meat we produce from the bison is high in protein and low in fat,” said Allen Asche.

“We used to have cattle and we kind of took a break for a little bit. We did a lot of research and visited a lot of other farms that were raising bison and we decided to go that route. We finally bought some animals and started our own operation.”

Asche is just one of the many Americans who are rediscovering the benefits of bison meat.

Bison is nutrient dense because of the proportion of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins compared to its caloric value, making it perfect for anyone on a low-fat diet.

Controlling their animals’ diet helps keep Asche’s bison lean.

“Typically, we don’t feed any grains to them,” said Asche. “We just see that they get plenty of grass in the summer time and hay in the winter. They might get a little oats as a treat when we move them from one pen to another. We want to keep them as lean as possible. You really notice there is hardly any fat on the animal when you have it processed.”

Asche grazes the animals rotationally following a “one animal to an acre of pasture” rule of thumb, much the same as in raising cattle.

Because they consume almost no grain, it takes a little longer to get the bison to market. Asche said it’s closer to 24 months before the animals are old enough and big enough to process as compared to the 18 months normally practiced for processing a steer.

They eventually move their bison to Eickman’s Processing on Pecatonica Road in Seward, where the processed meat is federally inspected.

“You know how it is; you talk to 20 different guys and they manage their herds in 20 different ways,” said Asche. “There’s no right way or wrong way, but I’ve seen bison raised just in normal cattle pastures where they didn’t really do any changes, and I’ve seen it where they incorporate very high fences and maybe overdone it. But, so as long as they’re fed, watered and content, there is usually no problem.”

The Asches did incorporate taller, sturdier fencing, especially in their corral area, and they added some electric fencing in the outer areas.

The family has a healthy respect for the temperament of their animals and move with understandable caution when tending the herd.

“They can weigh more than a ton and are fast and agile,” he said. “I walk the fences and sometimes the grass is high and you can’t always see where they are, but they pound the ground when they move and I can tell when they’re coming.”

The family is looking to the future and making plans to expand their meat business. They maintain a supply of bison meat for private individuals looking for fresh, healthy and lean meat.

“A lot of our market is in selling a quarter or a half an animal, but we do sell package meats,” said Asche. “Pork products are something we got into for a little bit and then we got out, but we are starting to get back into it now.”

Cuts of pork available through the Asche Bison & Pork Farm are also processed and federally inspected at Eickman’s in Seward.

Bison can be highly strung and unpredictable, so dropping by the farm is not advisable.


Source: The (Freeport) Journal-Standard, https://bit.ly/1sILnAg


Information from: The Journal-Standard, https://www.journalstandard.com/jshome.taf

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