We often get asked if bison meat is hypoallergenic, although here is no scientific evidence to support the claim, we have found more and more people switching to bison due to allergic reactions to other meats. It is very uncommon to have an allergy to bison meat. The most up-to-date scientific information available indicates that an allergic reaction to mammalian meats can be triggered in people who have been bitten by a tick.
From the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Meat from any kind of mammal—beef, lamb, pork, goat, and even whale and seal—can cause an allergic reaction. While we do not definitively know the number of people in the U.S. affected by meat allergy, we do know that it is uncommon. A bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork. The Lone Star tick has been implicated in initiating the red meat allergy in the US and this tick is found predominantly in the Southeast from Texas, to Iowa, into New England.” You can read more in the ACAAI posts Meat Allergy and Allergic to Red Meat.
From Vanderbilt University Medical Center: “Lone star tick bites are likely the cause of thousands of cases of severe red meat allergies that are plaguing patients in Southeastern states including Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia and spreading up the Eastern Seaboard along with the deer population.”
Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.) clinic is seeing one or more new cases each week of patients allergic to the alpha-gal sugar present in red meat, according to Robert Valet, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine. “It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts. The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat.”
According to WebMD: “Lone Star ticks carry a sugar called alpha-gal, which is also found in red meat, but not in people. Normally, alpha-gal in meat poses no problems for people. But when a Lone Star tick bites a person, it transfers alpha-gal into the bloodstream. As a result, the person’s body produces antibodies to fight the sugar. The next time that person eats red meat, their immune system responds to the alpha-gal in the meat and they suffer an allergic reaction that can include itching, burning, hives and even throat swelling.”
So far the majority of the cases we have had customers tell us about are beef related, but it is entirely possible for someone to be allergic to bison. We have spoken with several people at the market who eat our bison because they are allergic to beef. We can’t guarantee they won’t have an allergic reaction to bison, but so far so good. Always make sure that the bison meat you purchase is grass-fed and grass-finished, especially if you have grain allergies.
You can learn more about read Allergies & Intolerances on KaylaFioravanti.com.