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Published March 15, 2012, 11:14 AM

White House serves ND bison

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama broke with their pattern of serving beef at high-level dinners on March 14 when they served bison from North Dakota for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha Cameron.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Agweek

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama broke with their pattern of serving beef at high-level dinners on March 14 when they served bison from North Dakota for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha Cameron.

“The main course, Bison Wellington, is a perfect pairing of U.S. and U.K. cultures,” the White House said in a guide to the dinner. “The Wellington is a classic English dish given an American twist with the use of buffalo tenderloin.”

The first lady previewed the meal and the table setting for the press at an event to which American and British school girls also were invited, and noted that “hundreds of people are coming tonight.”

A spokeswoman for the first lady said the bison came from North Dakota, although she declined reveal what farm it came from, saying that they never reveal suppliers due to security concerns.

Although the White House didn’t want to reveal its bison source, the source was more than happy to oblige.

Tom Riemann, sales and marketing for the North American Bison Cooperative LLC, which is based in New Rockford, N.D., with an office in Fargo, N.D., said the co-op donated meat for the dinner. He said he couldn’t say which farm the meat came from, but most of their ranchers are in North Dakota so chances are the meat came from a North Dakota ranch.

Sen. John Hoeven’s, R-N.D., office contacted Riemann and said they were looking for bison to serve for a dinner. “When they told us what they were looking for we were able to help them out,” he said. “When they serve it at the White House it does get publicity, probably because it’s unique and it’s really, really good,” he added.

The dinner is a coup for the American bison industry because the event will receive worldwide news coverage.

Bison will also be served at the North American Agricultural Journalists dinner at the National Press Club on April 16. NAAJ president Ed Maixner, a North Dakotan who edits a newsletter for the Kiplinger news service, had already made the decision to serve bison before the White House announced the menu for tonight’s dinner.

Eddie Gehman Kohan, who writes Obama Foodorama, the online chronicle of food at the Obama White House, said in an interview that until this event the Obamas have served beef at every high-ranking White House dinner except the pesco-vegetarian dinner for the Indian prime minister.

Some nutritionists have said that since Michelle Obama promotes healthy eating, it has been surprising how often she and the president eat calorically dense beef and indulge themselves at fast-food establishments like Five Guys Burgers and Fries. But nutritionists view bison as a lean, healthy meat.

The bison industry is doing well, according to the website of the National Bison Association, which notes that it entered 2012 in the “strongest economic position in its history.”

“Consumer demand for lean, delicious bison meat is continuing to outstrip the available supply of market-ready animals,” the association says. “The resulting high prices processors are paying for those animals has sent a strong signal to ranchers to build their herds across the United States.”

According to USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture, conducted in 2007, there are about 200,000 bison on private lands in the U.S., the association said. With animals on public lands factored in, the actual size of the U.S. herd is now estimated at about 220,000 bison, it said.

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