Bison - Making a comeback in our province and our diets
Meet the Gerbers of Oakridge Acres Country Meat Store. Find out more about their businesses and the unique animals they raise on their farm.
Here at Foodlink Waterloo Region we are so privileged to be able to work with so many amazing local family farms and businesses. No matter the time of year, our partners have a lot to offer. Our partners offer a multitude of products from your everyday items to items that you may not be as familiar with. Enter Oakridge Acres Country Meat Store. Mark and Cindy Gerber, along with their children Jessica and Ben run a Black Angus Beef herd as well as a Plains Bison herd on their organic farm just outside of Ayr. In addition to farming the Gerbers also have an on-farm meat shop that features their meats along with products from just over 40 other partners.
So why bison. What is bison? Or is it buffalo? The Gerbers were kind enough to answer some questions.
1) First, is it Bison or Buffalo?
Bison is the name for the North American buffalo. Buffalo is the generic name for that variety of animal. There are 2 different kinds of North American bison. There are the Woods Bison and the Plains Bison. Here at our farm we raise Plains Bison.
2) Why did you start a Bison herd?
We started a bison herd just over 6 years ago due to customer demand in our store. Bison has been ever growing in popularity. It is naturally a very low fat, high iron protein. It tastes similar to beef. When cooking, remember high and fast or low and slow. Naturopathic doctors with whom we work recommend bison to their clients if they are fighting any blood disorders such as low iron or have problems digesting fats. Bison is one of the healthiest meats you can eat.
3) You are a certified organic farm. Are your herds also certified?
Yes, we have been a certified organic farm (through Eco-Cert) for 5 years. As of right now, our animals themselves are not certified organic. We grow everything we feed our animals and they are all on a 100% grass-fed diet (mix of pasture, hay and Sudan grass). We haven't been able to certify our animals as of yet. We are hoping to do so with all of the calves we had born on our farm this year. Then, going forward, our beef and bison animals themselves as well as their feed will be certified organic.
4) Are there any differences between the 2 animals that your raise other then their appearance?
We have been raising Black Angus beef for about 16 years. We have always been very hands-on with our animals. We spend a lot of time in with the cattle and they are very used to us. That being said we never turn our backs on them. You always want to be aware of your surroundings. The biggest difference, we had to sort of retrain our brains on this, is that Bison are still very wild animals and you have to treat them that way. Therefore, we cannot walk through their pasture like we do with our cattle. Even though these animals are farmed they still act and very much are wild animals. We never enter their pasture unless we are on a tractor or in a truck.
5) What would be something people might be surprised to hear about bison?
Probably one of the biggest things people are surprised about when we talk to them about bison is that they are fast. Like VERY fast. To look at them you would think they have a very quiet, chill demeanour but they go from 0-60 in seconds.
It's hard to imagine these wild animals living here in Waterloo Region. I encourage you to visit Oakridge Acres Country Meat Store and learn a little more about these animals. It's a beautiful drive in the country and down a scenic laneway to get to the store but it is worth it!
There are many other Foodlink partners that offer a range of wild and exotic meats. Don't forget that we have both a paper copy and an online copy of our Taste Local map which is free for your use to help make it easier for you to find our farm partners.