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Farm Store Open: Saturdays, 1-5 p.m.

By LAUREN VOKISH Posted 4/28/2009 on the  Times Observer website

Lazy J BisonThe Lazy J Bison Farm, established 11 years ago by John and Linda Hagberg in Sugar Grove Township, is a hobby "that went mad."

"The farm, originally owned by father, was a dairy farm. After his death, I received part of the land and was supposed to turn it into a beef cattle farm, but I ended up discovering bison," said Hagberg. "We started off with two, named Thelma and Louise, and then it quickly grew to more than 20 and now there are around 40 on the property. The rest is history."

The benefits of bison meat, said Hagberg, are numerous.

"Bison meat is very low in fat and cholesterol as well as high in iron," said Hagberg. "I know of three customers off the top of my head that are on restricted diets and cannot have red meat, but they can eat bison because it is healthy for them."

According to a nutritional comparison chart by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3.5 ounce cooked piece of bison meat has 2.42 grams of fat versus choice beef which has 18.54 grams. A similar size piece of pork has 9.66 grams of fat and a piece of chicken 7.41 grams.

It is also a "very hardy" meat, said Hagberg.

"For instance, a person that eats a 12-ounce strip steak from beef, would be just as satisfied with a six- or eight-ounce strip steak made from bison," said Hagberg. "Also, some people may say that female bison meat tastes different from a bull, but I really don't find a major difference."

Hagberg is also very concerned with the genetics of his bison.

"I am pretty picky when it comes to the bloodline of the animals," said Hagberg. "We make absolutely sure that none of the bison are inter-bred with one another. I am always looking for ways to improve the bloodline by getting the top bison and keeping them as healthy as possible."

According to Hagberg, bison meat is very profitable.

"A bull head is more valuable and more in demand than a beef cow," said Hagberg. "Our meat is also a little more expensive than beef, around ten to 12 percent higher, but it is worth it. Their hide is also something that people want because they can turn it into shoes, jackets, belts and wallets. Although, it is expensive for them to tan."

Hagberg said the year's financial difficulties haven't effected the business.

"We still have a really strong customer base," said Hagberg. "If they want good meat, they'll get it, regardless of the economy. Also, the demand for the meat has exceeded our ability to produce it. Bison only breed in one-year cycles unlike dairy cows, which have a cycle every 21 days. If they miss the cycle, we have to wait a whole other year before we get another baby."

Since bison are considered an exotic species by the USDA, Hagberg said there is a cost to process them into meat products.

"All other meat, such as beef, pork and poultry are still free to process through the USDA, but for bison you have to pay by the hour," said Hagberg, "which for us is around $120 extra to process one. Also, our stamp for the USDA is different. A regular stamp on the meat is a quarter-sized round stamp with USDA in the middle; ours is a triangle with the letters inside."

All of the Lazy J Farm's bison, said Hagberg, are grass fed and receive special supplement minerals.

The bison are also on a strict rotational grazing schedule on several pastures on the property.

"In bison farming, there are always challenges," said Hagberg. "Bison aren't the typical animals. They get stressed out more than cows and have a shy disposition about them. Their sense of smell is extremely high and they will know if an unfamiliar person is around. Bison live and die by this because they depend on their senses to make sure no danger comes to the herd. They also are very strong. A 1,700-pound bull can jump one of the fences from a stand-still."

Their high-stress nature has caused Hagberg to be on the look-out for dangers every day.

"This winter we had a bull break one of our holding areas," said Hagberg. "Bison can also run as fast as a good horse and longer than one. They are quite fast despite how they look. As far as I know, around here they do not have any known enemies. If a bear would venture into their territory, I know they would kill it if they felt threatened."

The Lazy J Bison Farm, located on Swede Hollow Road, is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays throughout the year.

The Lazy J is part of the Pennsylvania Bison Association, where Hagberg is the western region director and Nicklas serves as the secretary-treasurer.

Hagberg said that by mid-fall he hopes to have a new store finished which will include a kitchen.

"We just have a lot of fun and enjoy doing this," said Nicklas. "It's always interesting, never a dull moment here."

Pictures of Lazy J Bison from the 2007 Family Ag Tour



Bison tastes great!  Most people interviewed feel bison is the most flavorful meat they have ever tasted, with a sweet and rich flavor.  Bison is naturally flavorful and tender and can be prepared much the same as beef without special handling.


Bison falls into the gourmet or specialty meat category at your supermarket or meat market.  The value of bison is not what you pay, but what you get in return.  Nutritionally you  are getting more protein and nutrients with fewer calories and less fat.  Bison is a dense meat that tends to satisfy you more while eating less.


Bison are not subjected to growth hormones or stimulants.  The members of the National Bison Association feel so strongly about this that they have adopted a resolution opposing the use of these substances in the production of bison for meat.


Research has show that the meat from bison is a highly nutrient dense food because of the proportion of protein, fat, minerals, and fatty acids to its caloric value.  Comparisons to other meat sources have also shown that bison has a greater concentration of iron as well as some of the essential fatty acids necessary for human well being.

Nutrition Composition
(per 100 grams of cooked lean meat)

Species Fat Grams Calories KCAL Cholesterol MG
Bison 2.42 143 82
Beef 9.28 211 86
Pork 9.66 212 86
Chicken* 7.41 190 89

 USDA Handbook 8-5:8-10:8-13:8-17

About our Bison:

Our animals are grass fed and they receive minerals not found in this region, vital to their health, by way of grain supplement.

We practice rotational grazing, and we are opening up two new pastures this fall.

The nutritional value of our animals is exceptional, and works well for those on restricted diets.  Many people who cannot eat red meat due to cholesterol problems, can enjoy this product.

Bison Cooking 101  (a link to the National Bison Association website)
These introductory recipes are "designed to give the first time Bison meat buyer an opportunity to sample several Bison cuts."  They also offer several cookbooks for sale.

by Anita Cohan
Reprinted from Penn Lines, a publication of
Warren Electric Cooperative

With a lantern lit and the wood stove on, Warren Electric Cooperative members Linda Nicklas and John Hagberg wait for customers on a Saturday afternoon at their Lazy J Bison Farm in Sugar Grove. Advertising their specialty as "The Original Red Meat, Heart Healthy," Linda and John have been raising bison since 1999.

"It was a hobby that went mad," John relates with humor.

Taking some of the land from the family dairy farm he grew up on, John planned to raise beef cattle. Then he started reading about bison and formed a partnership with Linda with the intention of raising them. In February 1999 they purchased their first two bison.

"We named them Thelma and Louise," Linda adds with a laugh. They started restructuring the fence for the bison, making it stronger and higher than it had been for cows. They enclosed four acres for just the two animals. In the fall, six more bison were added with two expecting in the spring. Then along came the bull to balance out the farm. Along the way, John and Linda learned a lot about caring for bison.

"They are not to be pushed," John informs. "They are not cows, they are wild animals. You have to know the deception tactics that it takes to get them out of the pastures."

The bison have to be lured from the
pasture, driven across the road and into facilities where they can be vaccinated, have blood tests done, and checked for nutritional values. This feat can take four or five assistants, along with a veterinarian.

"I am always worried throughout the process that someone will get hurt and always give a sigh of relief when they are all done," Linda says.

John said he has learned that their
love of grain, which they are fed every other day, helps him gather the bison together to check them for problems like cuts, flies, injuries, or signs of illness. Their regular diet is dry grasses and summer field grass. As the farm developed, they've managed to yield 13 to 14 baby bison each year, with eight to 12 animals going to slaughter.

The marketing of bison products was also a learning process for Linda and John. Bison falls into the gourmet or specialty meat category at meat markets. Unlike with beef, pork, or chicken, where taxpayers pay for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stamps on approved meat products, local bison producers must pay for USDA stamps on their products. Trail bologna, snack sticks, and canned meat for stew go through a very intense approval system. Labels and packages have to have approval from Washington, D.C.

As far as the meat itself, bison is low in cholesterol and fat, and high in iron. The DNA structure of bison does not allow the muscle to retain fat, the usual cause for marbling in beef. Bison are also not subject to growth hormones or stimulants.

"Most people feel bison is the most flavorful meat, with a sweet and rich flavor," Linda says.

Trying out that taste first was Richard's restaurant in Youngsville. The establishment was looking for a healthier menu and bison seemed to fit the bill. Then Warren's Farmers Market gave them a destination market for Saturdays during the season. That led to the Farm Store on Swede Hollow. Each endeavor got the word out to the public and generated sales and interest. The business is in the process of developing a web site to expand the market.

Copyright 2007 Warren Electric Cooperative


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Updated:  02/05/10