Hugh and Sarah Fitzsimons raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) bison outdoors on range at Shape Ranch in San Antonio, Texas, supplying bison meat and leather goods under the Thunder Heart Bison brand.
Shape Ranch was purchased by Hugh’s grandfather, H. A. Fitzsimons, in 1933 and has been in the family ever since. Although originally stocked with Hereford cattle, Hugh decided to make the switch to bison shortly after taking over the ranch in 1999. Today, he manages approximately 350 bison on 13,000 acres of southern Texas grassland. “Bison are indigenous to Texas and therefore naturally adapted to live off the land, but they also produce a very healthy meat,” says Hugh. “Bison is probably the purest form of protein you can find.” Bison meat is low in cholesterol and fat, and high in omega 3.
The Fitzsimons are dedicated to sustainable, high welfare, range-based management of their herd. Paying careful attention to natural herd dynamics and social interactions, Hugh and Sarah allow calves to wean naturally from their mothers, and mainly slaughter 2 to 3-year-old bulls. The young bulls are fully grown, but have not yet been integrated into the herd. To minimize stress, Hugh field slaughters the bison and processes the animals on the ranch in a purpose-built plant to avoid any unnecessary handling and transport. It also gives the Fitzsimons complete control over the quality of the meat and bison products. A representative from the Texas Department of Health oversees the slaughter and processing of the meat.
Sarah, who runs ranch development, jumped on the chance to apply for certification when bison standards were first introduced in 2009. The Fitzsimons proudly display the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW logo on their Thunder Heart Bison food truck and all their Thunder Heart Bison products.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW bison products from Shape Ranch under the Thunder Heart Bison brand are available at the Thunder Heart Bison food truck in San Antonio and at farmers’ markets and restaurants in San Antonio and Austin.