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Wild Side Ranch

8675 Taft Road • Bloomfield, NY 14469

Tel: (585) 624-4603

Web: www.WildSideRanchLLC.com

email: buffalo@WildSideRanchLLC.com

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As seen in the Democrat and Chronicle Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Bloomfield farm is where the buffalo roam

Couple raises bison, selling the meat locally



WEST BLOOMFIELD When Andrea and Oliver Scott met 27 years ago, Oliver was raising bison in Ontario County, but selling most of the meat to New York City restaurants, where cosmopolitan tastes didn't hesitate to try the leaner alternative to beef.

Oliver got into the business of raising bison after reading a newspaper article about a Syracuse outfit in the early 1970s. At one point the herd was 200 strong, but now the Scotts have about 95 head of bison.

And today, the West Bloomfield couple sell all their meat locally, either from a butcher shop they maintain at their farm, the Wild Side Ranch on Taft Road, a few restaurants or a handful of independently owned grocery stores in Monroe and Livingston counties.

The shift to a local market, which came about mostly in the least few years, happened as local consumers developed a more favorable attitude toward buffalo meat and started growing more concerned about how their food was raised and processed, the Scotts say.

Oliver Scott brings a bale of hay out to the herd of bison at his ranch.The bison are born and raised on the 600-acre farm. PHOTO Kris J. Murante - D&C staff photographer


Their bison are born on the 600-acre farm and feed entirely from pasture and hay. When it comes time to slaughter, the Scotts shoot the animals in the fields where they always lived so they don't experience the fear of being transported to a slaughterhouse. Then they butcher the animals - about four a month - in their own facility next door to their house.

"You really start to care about what's done to your meat," says Andrea.

But not everyone relishes the idea of bison. Andrea recalls preparing samples in a local gorocery store and having people shrink away because they mistakenly thought buffalo were endangered animals.

One time a man was about to try a sample until his wife warned that she would divorce him if he did, she said. Other times, people said they had tried buffalo in the past. but found it tough. The taste is quite similar to beef, but the Scotts say its much lower fat content requires different cooking techniques to keep it tender.

"Lower heat, longer and moist heat," recommends Oliver.

After a few national E. coli scares with hamburger from cows raised in giant cattle processing plants in other parts of the country, many people turned toward grass-fed animals, including bison.

"This year has been exceptional," Oliver said. "Everyone wants it."

Betty Becker of Henrietta was an early covert. She saw an ad more than 20 years ago for a buffalo meat sale on Taft Road and was curious just because her grandfather had once owned land there.

"At that time, the Buffalo were grazing on what used to be my grandfather's property," Becker says.

She tried a sample of buffalo chili and has been buying buffalo from the Scotts ever since, often getting 10 pounds of ground meat at time. Recently she was trying out some new recipes, marinating a one-pound cut for shish kebobs.

"We are interested in eating things that don't have all of these hormones and who knows what in them," Becker says. But even now, she says some friends are reluctant to try her cooking at pot-luck dinners because they're afraid she'll use buffalo or venison in her dish.

The animals run free over large sections of the Scott's property, including pastures, woods and streams. The couple say the bison are wild animals, not domesticated ones, so they must take care to avoid getting into a confined space with them, or being too close to a mother with calf. Yet Andrea notes that the bison are easier on fences than beef cattle are.

A two-month old calf wanders among the herd at the Wild Side Ranch in West Bloomfield.
PHOTO Kris J. Murante - D&C staff photographer


Some years ago the Scotts fed the bison corn, which is the common, yet increasingly controversial feed used to fatten beef cattle quickly. While the feed made bison grow big quickly, it also made the meat from those bison taste bland, they say, so they went back to feeding them grass.

"The Omega 3s are so much higher in a grass-fed animal," Andrea offers, referring to an essential fatty acid. A variety of buffalo meat sellers say bison has a fraction of the fat that beef does, while containing more it protein and iron. The American Heart Association recommends it as a lean red meat choice.

Andrea says after raising a family - they have four grown children between them from previous marriages - and now helping out with their grandchildren, they've come to appreciate the idea of hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat.

Like many farmers, the Scotts as don't limit themselves to a single revenue stream - raising and butchering bison. They built a horse training facility on their property run by Minteer Training, they board horses and they raise Highland cattle, mostly for show.

But bison appear to be their main passion. After all, when it came time to buy a horse trailer, they chose one made by the Bison trailer company.