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Mormons in Utah, Canada are working to bring back the bison

Published: Monday, Jan. 24 2011 6:30 a.m. MST

Maddox said bison offerings on the menu — of which there are more every year — are mainly there because of popular demand.

"We experiment with different things, and people tell us what they like,” he said. “If we take something away, we hear about it.”

Currently, the menu includes chicken-fried bison steak and a number of cuts of bison steak. Ground bison and bison roasts are sold in the refrigerated units in the lobby.

Maddox said the meat is leaner and has a higher protein content than beef.

"We're trying to be leaders," he said. "We want to offer a sustainable product, natural meats that come from local suppliers that we trust."

Most of the bison sold at the restaurant comes from a rancher in Idaho who sometimes contracts with growers like Olson.

“If there's a market for bison raised in a conservationist way, the people will make that market,” Olson said. “And this could happen quickly. We've got millions of acres. That half a million animals could be 2 million, 5 million, 10 million — if we convert what is beef-raising land to bison-raising land. You could see millions of bison roaming the prairie again.”

Those may be huge ifs, but Olson is on a roll. It's as if he can see his Mormon great-grandmother coming over the ridge in belly-high grass all over again.

"I think we as Mormons have a real relationship with bison,” he said. “There's no doubt in my mind that our ancestors valued those giant bison herds.”

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer who lives in American Fork. Follow her blog at http://sharonhaddock.blogspot.com/.

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