As director of the Animal Welfare Approved program, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Arapaho Ranch, in north-central Wyoming. At 580,000 acres, it is the largest USDA certified organic ranch in the U.S. - and one of the most inspiring ranches that I have ever seen. Arapaho Ranch is actually part of its environment, working in harmony with nature, rather than trying to control it. My visit began at the front of the local high school in the town of Thermopolis, where I met with David Stoner, who manages the Arapaho Ranch on behalf of the Tribal Council of the Northern Arapaho Nation. David is one of those people who can say a huge amount with very few words, and as we drove out to the first pasture it quickly became clear that the Arapaho Tribe had struck gold by appointing him to manage their ranch.
The Bélanger family raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) bison at Bison Du Nord in Earlton, Ontario. The 570-acre ranch is located right along the Quebec border in the northeastern part of Ontario and the rugged landscape of fertile soil produces excellent grass, making the property’s pastures a natural fit for the herd of bison.
Pierre Bélanger, founder and owner of Bison Du Nord, began raising bison in 1972. Today the ranch is home to 300 strong and healthy bison and is considered to be one of the oldest and largest bison ranches in Eastern Canada.
The bison graze freely in large open pastures year-round where they are able to demonstrate their natural behaviors. In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the bison herd at Bison Du Nord is Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range.
Bison Du Nord’s herd grazes the native grasses spring through fall, with supplemental hay and hay silage in the winter months grown and harvested on neighboring farmland. Raising grassfed bison on pasture takes advantage of the natural needs and behaviors of the animals: “Ultimately, bison are wild animals and it is their nature to be constantly roaming. They yearn for movement. When the bison cross-over into a nice fresh pasture, not only do they love it, but this is a better management approach for the soil, animals, plants and our business’s bottom-line.”
Attaining certifications by A Greener World was important to Bison Du Nord because they wanted their products to have a third-party verification for their practices. “We believe in credible third-party certifications for animal welfare and grassfed management because the bison industry faces many of the same challenges as the industrial beef industry, like high intensity cereal or corn feeding in confinement feedlots, and no regard to the welfare or natural needs of the animals. We’re proud to be Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and Certified Grassfed by AGW for our bison because it adds credibility to our products and shows our customers that we have a label they can trust,” explains Pierre.
As a pioneer in the bison industry, Pierre Bélanger helped establish the Canadian Bison Association and the Ontario Bison Association a few decades ago, and continues to work alongside fellow Canadian producers to help further the industry. Bison Du Nord is dedicated to promoting the beneficial qualities of low-fat, high protein grassfed bison meat, and is also a recognized leader for their high-quality breeding stock.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW bison from Bison Du Nord is available at butcher shops throughout Ontario (visit AGW’s online directory for vendor listings). For more information about Bison Du Nord, visit bisondunord.com along with the farm’s Instagram and Facebook page. Contact Bison Du Nord at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (705) 563-2206.