The American bison is back. Herds of these massive, furry beasts—also known as buffalo—are nowhere near as large as they were before hunting reduced their numbers to around 540 by 1891, but conservationists and ranchers have pooled their efforts to save the animals. Now, chefs are on board, too, and the market for buffalo meat is growing fast. (Nobles County, Minn., Review) Sales jumped by 20 percent last year, and are up by another 20 percent so far in 2007.

Bison meat is lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat than beef—and chicken, and pork. A 100-gram buffalo rib-eye steak has 110 calories and 2.4 grams of fat; a similar beef rib-eye has 161 calories and 8.3 grams of fat. “It’s great to have a lean meat that is a red meat for people who are a little bit health-conscious,” said Gabriel Kreuther, the executive chef. (The New York Times, free registration required)

Buffalo meat is a little more expensive than prime beef at fine butcher shops, and it can be substituted for beef in any recipe. For buffalo burgers, make five- or six-ounce patties a little less than an inch thick, sear them on both sides, flip, and cook two or more minutes for rare to medium-rare. For rib-eyes, look for steaks a little more than an inch thick so they’ll be “succulent” and “full of beefy flavor.” Sear for two minutes on each side, then reduce heat and cook five to six minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, and let thick steaks rest a minute or two before serving. (also in the Times)