Westmoreland farmer touts virtues of bison

CLAY CENTER — Westmoreland bison farmer Ed Dillinger compared bison meat to fish when talking to Lions Club members about meat this week.

Bison meet is high in protein, low in fat and relatively low in calories, according a brochure on bison meat from the Kansas Buffalo Association. Per 100 grams of cooked lean meat it has 143 calories, compared to 211 and 212 in beef and pork and 190 in skinless chicken. It has 2.42 grams of fat, compared to 9.28 grams in beef, 9.66 grams in pork and 7.41 grams in skinless chicken.

Bison meat is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals including B-12, selenium, zinc and phosphorus and is a good source of iron, vitamin B-6, and niacin.

In addition, it is low in sodium and filled with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the kinds of fatty acids found in fish oil that are recommended with a heart-healthy diet.

Dillinger, a retired teacher, said he and his wife, Susan, got into farming because they grew up on a farm and wanted to get back to it. His ranch, Lazy Heart D Bison, started out raising livestock on a small scale for friends and neighbors and evolved into an operation that is part ranch and part tourist attraction.

As a tourist attraction, the Dillinger ranch covers everything people would like to know about buffalo, from where buffalo come from and bison fossils to "getting on the wagon out to the pasture where the buffalo come and greet us," Dillinger said. The tourist part of the operation started out with friends, neighbors and customers coming over to purchase meat.

His pasture is 10 miles from the Wamego city park, and like the park has some of the original structures built by Dutch settlers in 1879.

But it's the buffalo that bring people to his ranch. Dillinger said he frequently get calls from people in the cities wanting to see a small buffalo ranch up close and has regular tourists who come out two or three times a year.