Culinary Professionals feature Intertribal Bison Cooperative

Photo and Story By Renee Fajardo
Denver, Colorado (NFIC) 4-09

 Jim Stone, Executive Director of the ITBC
Over 600 attendees from around the globe gathered in Denver April 1-4 to attend the 31st Annual International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference. Pioneering A Sustainable World was the theme for 2009. The prestigious “Who’s Who” in the food world event included master classes, educational seminars, section/ committee forums, and networking opportunities with authors, editors, chefs, suppliers and other industry experts.

In keeping with the organizations commitment to sustainability and food artisanship the conference hosted numerous presenters from the natural and organic food industry. Among these guest speakers was Jim Stone, Executive Director of the Intertribal Bison Cooperative ( ITBC).

The Intertribal Bison Cooperative was formed in 1990 to coordinate and assist tribes in returning the buffalo to Indian Country. ITBC endeavors to restore to tribal lands in a “manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration and economic development, while remaining compatible with each member tribes’ traditional beliefs and practices.” Today they serve 55 tribes in 18 states and have helped   re-establish 52 herds that total over 15,000 bison.

Stone addressed a packed audience about the issues facing tribes in maintaining bison herds and the role the food industry plays in this endeavor.

“First realize that tribal people look at bison as a wildlife species. This means that they are not treated as cattle. All the bison coming from our members are free range grass fed. We do not finish by corn feeding our herds. This increases the healthy benefits of our product and maintains our integrity in raising bison.”


Stone went on to explain that the reintroduction of bison serves a two fold benefit for tribes. “First we know that price dictates what families eat. We need to be able to address the health issues of our tribes, diabetes and obesity are directly linked to diet. We want to help better the diets of the tribes by allowing them to have access to their traditional protein source once again.”

This critical goal is obtained through several means. ITBC is dedicated to providing educational and technical support for tribes who want to maintain or establish bison herds. But beyond this Stone also envisions bison as an economic resource for tribes.

“While some tribes have sources of revenue from casinos and hotels, this is not true for all tribes. Thus there is a need to diversify economic efforts and by establishing a bison herd a tribe can gain self sustainability,” said Stone.

ITBC  also provides critical business management skills, labor training, mentoring opportunities, business infrastructure, feasibility studies, advertising and packaging development, business, marketing, and product development and business consulting opportunities for member tribes. Tribes have been able to establish a nation wide clientele based on bison that includes supplying food markets, bison hunts, arts and crafts, bison products and wildlife tours,

Stones message to conference attendees was clear. Supporting ITBC members is a win/win situation. “We are at a critical point in our food production,” added Stone. “We are all working together to build a future where we can look at our food as our ancestors did, with respect, love and compassion for the earth.”  

For more information contact the ITBC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (605) 394-9730 or visit the Association: