Bison has slightly less cholesterol than beef, much less saturated fat, and fewer calories. As red meat, bison may be a better option than beef for managing cholesterol levels and as part of a balanced diet.

This article looks at the nutritional profile of bison meat and how it differs from beef. It discusses differences in farming methods, flavor, and preparation. In addition, we share tips for meal ideas using bison meat.

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Bison are large bovine animals similar to cattle. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that the bison bull is the largest animal indigenous to North America, standing taller than 6 feet at the hump and weighing more than a ton.

Some people refer to bison as American buffalo or buffalo. Farmers rear bison as livestock, and people prepare and eat the meat in a similar way to beef.

Although bison and beef taste similar, they have differences in their nutritional profile.

Bison is lower in cholesterol than beef. The following table compares the two.

Cholesterol per 100 grams (g)82 milligrams (mg)87 mg
Saturated fat per 100 g0.9 grams (g)5.58 g
Calories per 100 g142235

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people limit their consumption of saturated fat to avoid raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL). High LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

For individuals wanting to lower their cholesterol, the AHA advises they should reduce saturated fat to less than 6% of their daily calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories per day, that’s around 11–13 g of saturated fat.

Because bison contains less calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat, 2013 research suggests it may be a healthier alternative to beef.

Bison is a good source of protein and some vitamins and minerals. The nutritional profile of both bison and beef is as follows:

Amount per 100 g cooked bisonAmount per 100 g cooked beef
Protein28.3 g27.1 g
Fat2.41 g13.4 g
Carbohydrate0 g0 g
Fiber0 g0 g
Saturated fat0.9 g5.58 g
Cholesterol82 mg87 mg
Zinc3.66 mg5.21 mg
Iron3.41 mg2.26 mg
Selenium35.4 micrograms (mcg) 29.8 mcg

Experts advise that people limit their red and processed meat consumption to avoid high cholesterol, heart disease, and other health conditions.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) advises people to eat no more than three portions of red meat per week — equivalent to 350–500 g (about 12–18 oz) cooked weight.

Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA) notes that eating more plant protein instead of red meat may improve heart health.

Foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat include:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains, such as oats, barley, brown rice, and buckwheat
  • beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, and lentils
  • soy, tofu, and tempeh
  • oily fish, such as sardines, tuna, salmon, and mackerel
  • white fish, such as cod, haddock, and bass
  • poultry, such as turkey and chicken without skin
  • seitan
  • nuts and seeds
  • avocados
  • low fat dairy products, such as skim milk and cottage cheese

Including these foods as part of a balanced diet and limiting saturated fats from red and processed meats can help individuals lower their cholesterol and reduce their risk of stroke and heart disease. In addition, it may reduce someone’s risk of cancer, obesity, and other chronic health conditions.

In addition to their cholesterol profile, bison and beef have several other differences.

Rearing and farming methods

Bison is game meat and producers raise the animals on ranches or farms. The animals may be allowed to roam freely or kept in more confined conditions.

Wild game is usually lower in saturated fat because the animal gets more exercise. In comparison, most beef is mass-produced on farms, where animals may not be active.

The USDA notes that farmers slaughter 20,000 bison each year compared to approximately 125,000 cattle per day. In addition, producers do not give antibiotics or hormones to bison.


The USDA explains that beefalo are 3/8 bison and 5/8 domestic cattle. Farmers feed beefalo inexpensive, high-roughage feed to gain weight easily. Therefore, the nutrition profile of beefalo may be more similar to beef than bison.

Omega-3 fatty acid profile

Game meats, particularly meat from grass-fed animals, may contain more omega-3 fatty acids than beef. Most commercially produced beef is grain-fed, resulting in a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and may improve cardiovascular and brain health.

Flavor and appearance

In its raw state, bison is a deeper shade of red than beef. Unlike beef, there is no marbling of the fat in the meat.

Some people say that bison has a sweeter, richer flavor than beef.

Preparation and cooking

People should handle bison like any other meat by storing it at the correct temperature and avoiding cross-contamination.

Due to its lower fat content, it may be easy to overcook bison.

The USDA advises that individuals can cook bison for longer at a lower heat of 325°F. People must ensure they cook raw ground bison to an internal temperature of 160°F by measuring with a food thermometer. Raw bison steaks and roasts must reach a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.

People can braise less tender cuts of bison by simmering with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan. Alternatively, they can stew them with other ingredients.

People can use bison as they would beef. For example, individuals could grill or pan-fry a bison steak or roast it and serve it with vegetables.

Ground bison is adaptable in many recipes and meal ideas. Here are a few examples:

  • bison meatballs
  • bison burger
  • bison in a tomato sauce to serve with pasta
  • bison black bean chili
  • bison filling for enchiladas or tacos
  • bison Cajun rice
  • bison and bean stew

Bison contains less cholesterol, calories, and saturated fat than beef. Farmers rear bison differently from cows, giving the meat a more beneficial nutritional profile. People can include it in many everyday meals but take care not to overcook it.

People should be mindful of how much red meat they consume and opt for other low cholesterol protein sources such as fish, legumes, or soy.