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North American Bison expanding in New Rockford; Pandemic boosts bison consumption

The North American Bison LLC processing plant in New Rockford is expanding.

“We’ve been experiencing solid growth, in terms of consumption of bison — not only domestically in the US, but across the globe,” CEO and President Jim Wells told Prairie Public. “We saw a need to expand our production capacity.”

North American Bison is harvesting around 11,000 animals per year, according to Wells.

“We’re going to move our capacity to over 17,000 animals annually,” he said.

The company recently was awarded $250,000 in state aid to help with expansion construction costs, according to state Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. The money is through the Agricultural Diversification and Development Fund, which is administered by the state Agriculture Department and state-owned Bank of North Dakota to support new or expanding value-added agriculture businesses.

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The coronavirus pandemic is a big driver of the bison plant expansion.

“We had a lot of consumers who were at home, preparing meals for themselves, and looking for healthy alternatives,” Wells said. “Bison is extremely healthy.”

Wells said it was more than just ground bison products.

“We ended up touching a nerve with consumers in regards to health, both on our traditional ground product, but also on our other lines, like steaks,” he said. “So through COVID, we were able to expand our household consumption beyond the typical bison burger, and that’s been a really positive thing for the industry.”

A ceremony to celebrate the expansion has tentatively been scheduled for February, Wells said.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is giving ideas on how to cook your game meat. Cayla walks viewers through a hearty venison sausage egg bake. (Video courtesy of North Dakota Game and Fish)

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