… Where the buffalo roam

Buffalo grazing

Buffalo grazing

As more Americans become increasingly health conscious a new industry is now emerging which has some farmers hopeful for a revolution in the American diet. A new meat product that is rich in nutrients and contains very little fat is making some inroads on the market. The new product is buffalo meat.

Benny Hammonds owns the only buffalo farm in Sevier County. The farm, located on Glades Road, catches the attention of travelers as they pass along the route. Hammonds, who has served as head coach of the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders for 43 years, has spent most of his life on the farm raising cattle and horses.

Two years ago after a vacation out west, Hammonds became interested in raising buffalo. He began researching the animals online and soon purchased four buffalo from a farm in North Carolina.

Interpretative boards at the Hammonds Farm provide visitors with some strange and unusual facts about the massive beasts. The male of the species, known as bulls, can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Pregnant females, known as cows, which are in labor can actually postpone birth for as much as two weeks if the herd needs to move to another pasture.

According to Hammonds, a fully grown buffalo has the strength of four cattle. Such brute strength and unpredictable nature requires special fencing to prevent the behemoths from breaking out of the confinement of their pasture.

Hammonds spent $7,500 to have a high electric fence installed. A sign warns visitors the fence is highly electrified.

“Buffalo can’t be tamed,” said Hammonds. “They can run as much as 50 miles per hour. They can be very violent and vicious animals.”

Despite their volatile nature, buffalo farms are springing up across the nation as Americans become more health conscious. According to Hammonds, buffalo meat produces very little grease when fried and is less likely to cause high cholesterol that results in clogged arteries. Ground buffalo meat can be purchased at Kroger’s in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Buffalo burgers are sold at The Diner, a popular roadside eatery on Highway 66 in Sevierville. For most shoppers the cost of buffalo meat makes the product cost prohibitive. On average the cost of buffalo meat is more than $9 a pound.

Hammonds said the buffalo market is poised to take off and the demand will increase as more Americans become more aware of the health benefits of the meat. This emerging industry is a stark contrast to the state of the buffalo population a century ago.

One hundred years ago the buffalo was almost extinct and only 600 remained worldwide. The buffalo have made a dramatic comeback and today more than 500,000 live on non-public lands.

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