Seven miles from Florida and light-years from the Wild West, buffalo roam in Geneva County thanks to 19-year-old entrepreneur Weston Spivey, who’s herding customers toward lean, local bison meat.
“Buffalo is heart-healthy and sweet without a gamey taste,” said Spivey, whose herd is technically bison, though he uses the term interchangeably with buffalo.
Spivey was 14 and at a conference in Las Vegas when he realized the demand for bison in eateries outside Alabama. His grandfather, Don McAllister, raised buffalo for his family, but Spivey dreamed bigger.
Nearly four years later, Green Acres Farms wholesales bison meat to over 75 restaurants and meat markets in Alabama. It processes around 70 animals a year, splitting the herd between Slocomb and out-of-state partner farms.
Spivey’s grass-fed bison is a popular choice for customers, though he said he prefers grain-fed meat, which is finished for 200 days with feed from a local mill and has a higher fat content.
Partnering with local restaurant owners, serving samples and slowly bringing bison to area menus cultivated demand for Spivey’s hamburger and steaks — resulting in a four-week waitlist for bison ribeye steaks.
In Hartford, Ketchem’s Restaurant, Catering and Venue patties out bison burgers for hungry customers on Friday nights. It’s a special that owner Cherie Orr said she’s excited to launch.
“The bison burger gives our customers a different, local option,” Orr said. “It’s a lean burger that doesn’t taste gamey and is something diners look forward to sampling.”
Spivey said bison is about five times more expensive than beef due to higher inputs and the cost of importing animals from places such as North Dakota. They also have a wild streak.
“Cows are like kittens compared to buffalo,” said Spivey, whose family also has 40 beef cows. “Buffalo are rowdy, relentless and unpredictable.”
When he’s not streamlining his business model, exploring new markets for bison, working out or deep-sea fishing, the self-disciplined teen stays busy as Geneva County’s District 1 commissioner.
“It was an honor to run and be one of the youngest elected officials in the state,” said Spivey, a student at Wallace State Community College. “I want to take the position and put it to good use in our county.”
Spivey invests in his community by using a nearby processor when the buffalo are harvested at 1,200-2,000 pounds. The meat is aged after harvest for maximum flavor and texture.
Cooking bison isn’t just for adventurous eaters, said Spivey, who suggests home cooks sample his product by the pound before ordering larger quantities. Preparing bison meat at home is simple and similar to beef, though buffalo cooks quicker than its more domesticated bovine relative.
“Marinate your meat well, cook it right, and you’ll enjoy bison,” Spivey said.
To find a restaurant or market selling Green Acres Farms bison, call Spivey at (334) 435-2837.