It began with a noble vision:
- Raise bison as nature intended, in an environment that is respectful to both land and animal
- Foster a culture of care and understanding throughout the organization
- Practice restorative ranch management in harmony with the natural ecosystem
- Exceed customer expectations with premium bison products consistent in taste and quality
At Noble Premium Bison, we’re executing on that vision throughout the company, starting at the ranch where our Canadian bison are raised.
In Part 1 of the Ranch to Table story, we talk with Noble partner and producer Doug Griller, about what makes Noble a standout in the bison industry in Canada.
How long have you been raising bison?
My grandfather was a homesteader, and my father carried on with a mixed farm until I converted the land to a larger bison ranch. After initially raising cattle on a small scale, I’ve been raising bison for about 25 years. We started with 12 head and today we run about 4000, exporting our products to Europe and the US.
What’s the benefit of raising bison over cattle?
Bison are a product of the land we raise them on. They’re wild animals requiring minimal human intervention, so giving them space and good grazing land means they’re pretty hardy and look after themselves. At the time I got into bison, I also ran a grocery business and needed a business model for the ranch that allowed me to do both things well. Bison really proved to be the answer.
Twenty-five years ago, you must have been way ahead of the curve. Could you see that bison as a menu item was going to catch on?
I wanted to specialize in a unique product that wasn’t a commodity. I looked at raising other alternative livestock and bison was the most interesting to me. Once I did more research, I discovered the taste and the value of the protein were both very appealing. If something was going to rise to the top, I decided bison had all the attributes to get there.
Describe the land and the environment the bison are raised on.
We have two ranches in Saskatchewan Canada, about 65 miles apart and covering 9,000 acres. Topographically the areas are quite different. The main ranch is a traditional grain-growing region that we’ve restored back to native grassland. Our other ranch is in beautiful rolling countryside with a lot more trees; an ideal habitat for bison and other wild species that live there.
So the bison and other wild animals live in harmony with one another?
That’s right. Restoring the grain-growing areas back to grassland has made the whole ecosystem more sustainable. By preserving all the forest areas and water habitats, we encourage other wild species to be part of what we’re doing. The bison range free with elk, mule and whitetail deer, moose, wolves and other predators; it’s a natural environment for the bison and they seem to do very well.
You talk about a legacy of sustainable ranching – what does this mean for you and for Noble?
In our minds, sustainability starts below the surface. We’ve done a lot of research into the importance of soil—how grass grows and what’s happening below the topsoil as far as the ecology of the ranch is concerned. It’s all part of a very intricate puzzle, and one we’ve spent years analyzing and fitting together. Once we had that figured out, understanding the connection between the soil, the grass and the bison meant we could give the animals all the components they needed to thrive. The value in having the right acres in the right environment for our herds means we can be both sustainable and productive.
What does this mean for your clients and consumers?
Consumers today are educated and discerning and want to know how animals are raised and what goes into the food they eat. For us, this starts with what our bison eat, and what they don’t. They graze on quality grassland and are finished on a small amount of grain in open paddocks. They are never given growth hormones, ever, or fed antibiotics unless required for humane purposes. If this happens, that animal is treated and removed from the herd. We’re living up to our own values by being sustainable first, productive second, however, these are also values shared by our clients.
What do you love most about what you do?
Watching the response we’re seeing from customers, and the professional way that my partner, Kelly Long, is taking the product to market. Driving around in the spring when the calves are hitting the ground. Being able to see the growth of my ranches, and the care and health of our animals. At the end of a long day, that’s what really makes me happy.