LAZY J BISON
THE ORIGINAL RED MEAT
JOHN & LINDA HAGBERG
SWEDE HOLLOW RD SUGAR GROVE, PA 16350
Farm Store Open: Saturdays, 1-5 p.m.
LAZY J BISON: HOBBY EXPLODES INTO FULL-TIME JOB
By LAUREN VOKISH
Posted 4/28/2009 on the
Times Observer website
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
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
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
"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
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."
of Lazy J Bison from the 2007 Family Ag Tour
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.
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.
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.
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.
(per 100 grams of cooked lean meat)
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
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
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.
THE LAZY J BISON FARM
Reprinted from Penn Lines, a publication of
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
"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
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