House wants troops to eat buffalo meat bought from native tribes

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Fancy a hot bison sandwich on rye? The rare food item may soon be on the table for troops, as Congress has proposed in its annual defense bill that the Department of Defense purchase buffalo meat from tribes and indigenous organizations.

House lawmakers passed their version of the $840 billion National Defense Authorization Act out of committee on June 23, incorporating a series of amendments that included, among other things, a procurement measure for bison meat. The final annual defense bill still needs to be passed by the full House and then approved by the Senate, which earlier in June passed its own out-of-committee version.

If passed, the Pentagon will begin “increasing the supply of bison meat…with the goal of sourcing two million pounds of bison meat annually to promote bison as a healthy food source. and sustainability and strengthen treaty and trust responsibilities and Native American agriculture”. according to the text of the amendment.

The amendment would also require the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee by Feb. 1, 2023, outlining opportunities to increase the supply of bison meat and other agricultural products from indigenous tribes and organizations.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Ruben Gallego, a veteran Democrat and sailor from Arizona.

“The success of our nation’s armed forces depends on its ability to innovate and use resources efficiently. One possible practice is the sourcing and use of bison meat in Indian Country,” Gallego said in a statement to the Military Times. “As a congressional leader on tribal issues, I have seen the success that tribes have had in rehabilitating our nation’s bison population, and the military would benefit from this meat to feed the troops. is why my NDAA amendment is a profitable victory for our military and our Indian country.

This unique piece of annual defense legislation serves as an example of how the Pentagon aims to expand its relationship with Indigenous communities, as well as how the nutritional value of an otherwise non-traditional military food can become a new staple that packs a protein-packed punch. for the troops.

The Pentagon and other government agencies are already working with tribes to acquire goods and services thanks in part to the Buy Indian Act, which gives the Department of the Interior the power to create contracts with native businesses. The annual number of new contracts can range from $20 million to over $60 million depending on the DOI.

There are about 3,500 bison in Yellowstone, the largest free-ranging bison population in the world, and about 400,000 in North America, according to the National Bison Association, a nonprofit group for bison producers and consumers. .

The National Bison Association has long championed the nutritional value of bison. The United States Department of Agriculture finds that per 100 grams of bison meat, there is a total of 25.4 grams of protein, compared to 17.2 grams in traditional 80% lean ground beef.

Nearly 30,000 bison were slaughtered at U.S. federal plants this year and nearly 245,000 pounds of chilled boneless and bone-in bison meat were also imported from Canada, according to the most recent USDA monthly bison report. .

In 2021, Vox reported that the military had attempted to exterminate bison in the past, and as recently as last year, bison were roaming military installations, as reported by CBS. The USDA is launching a new study this month that will focus on bison health and nutrition as well as industry management.

After the adoption of the NDAA, Pentagon leaders will have until next February to develop a plan to work on this new procurement mission with tribes and federally recognized tribal organizations.

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