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Ranchers, marketers celebrate Bison Advantage at summer conference

Bison ranches and marketers from 20 states celebrated the booming demand for buffalo meat and discussed new ideas to promote the "Bison Advantage" to prospective producers during the three-day National Bison Association Summer Conference held recently in Shipshewana, Ind.

The 2010 conference came at a time when the prices being paid to producers for quality meat animals have reached an all-time high. The ranchers and marketers at this year's session spent much of the conference discussing new ways to reach out and encourage new producers to enter the business.

"The opportunities in bison ranching are continuing to grow as more and more people discover the great taste, and the great nutritional profile of bison meat," said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association. "We are pleased that our conference this year included several participants who are looking into getting started in the bison business."

As a part of the 2010 conference, participants travelled to nearby Cook's Bison Ranch in Wolcottville, Ind., to conduct a "pasture walk" and to share information about proper bison husbandry, nutrition and management. In addition, discussion during the educational portion of the NBA's summer gathering included a review of the new Bison Producers' Handbook and other material designed to assist new producers to get a good start in the business.

The 2010 Summer Gathering also included an informational panel discussion of marketing. Facilitated by Purdue University Extension Agent Steve Engelking, participants in the panel shared information regarding the planning and promotion required for a successful farmers market business. That panel was underwritten by funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farmers Market Promotion Program.

Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society and a National Bison Association member, keynoted the summer conference with a presentation highlighting the role that zoos are playing in restoring bison and other native species around the world. The Chicago Zoo has developed a new exhibit that educates the public regarding the positive role that bison consumers are playing in providing a market incentive for ranchers to increase the herds of bison in North America.

The National Bison Association represents roughly 1,000 ranchers, processors and marketers who share a commitment to the heritage of the American buffalo and the quality of its products.

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