Jackson Hole Buffalo Company: From Boyhood Dream to Dream Job

When Dan Marino was 14, his family drove through Jackson, Wyoming on a summer road trip. "We came in through Togwotee Pass in the north," he remembers. "I saw the Snow King ski resort, and I tapped my mom on the shoulder and said, 'I'm moving here.' "

He never said another word about that daydream until he graduated from high school. That's when he loaded up his 1966 Mustang with everything he owned. "My mom said, 'Where on earth are you going?' I said, 'Jackson Hole,' and I never looked back," says Marino, now 53.

Making a living in a resort town wasn't simple. For years, Marino ran a power washing business, cleaning everything from log homes to commercial kitchen stove hoods. And he worked part-time cutting steaks and filleting fish at the now-shuttered Cadillac Grille, a popular restaurant on Jackson's historic town square. He met his wife, Suzanne, there. She was an owner and chef.

Then in 1997, Suzanne saw a tiny classified ad in the local newspaper. The Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co., founded in 1947, was for sale.

"It was the perfect fit," Suzanne says of the company. It seemed to epitomize Dan's love of Jackson, the nearby Teton Mountains and the broad valleys cut by the Snake River. "He's just so passionate about this place."

They bought the business, which sold buffalo jerky as well cuts of game meat out of a small storefront and via mail order, and set out to see if they could combine business with the love of the land.

Where the Buffalo Roam

Turns out that the Marinos ended up loving the buffalo, not just the land they called home. The more they learned about the animals, technically the American bison, the more fascinated they grew.

Bison will go through almost any barrier, even barbed wire, and can jump a 6-foot fence from a standing position. While they weigh up to 2,200 pounds, they can run up to 35 mph and are powerful swimmers. "They are spectacular to see," Dan says.

Credit: Alden WoodDan and Suzanne Marino, owners, Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Co.
Their prowess adds a new level of meaning to the phrase "where the buffalo roam," he adds, explaining that the massive animals wander "anywhere they want to."

Most of the United States and parts of Canada were once the perfect fit for the American bison with its tall-grass prairies and ample water supply. Millions of them roamed for thousands of years from New York to Idaho and from the Yukon Territories to the Gulf of Mexico.

For the Plains Indians, the huge herds were a source of food and shelter. They ate the meat and used the hides for teepees and clothing. But instead of forcing bison to follow them -- as Europeans had done when they domesticated cattle -- Native Americans followed the herds.

The animals also helped make the Plains Indians a formidable enemy to the U.S. government and the country's plans for westward expansion. So throughout the 1800s, a campaign of extermination began, and an estimated 50 million buffalo were killed.

"They did it to put stress on the population of the Native Americans," Marino says. "Take away their food source, take away their shelter source, take away their livelihood, and you can control them."

By the early 1900s, all that remained of America's bison was a herd of an estimated 25 animals protected in the confines of Yellowstone National Park about 60 miles northwest of Jackson.

From that decimated base, the American bison began to come back in the mid- to late 20th century. Today, there are enough bison, often farm-raised, to supply firms like Jackson Hole Buffalo Co., which processes about 350 to 400 animals a year. The bison population now is in the several hundred thousands, including wild and farmed herds.

While far eclipsed by the multibillion dollar beef industry, Dan says bison is a good alternative to cattle for a number of reasons. Cattle are content standing in one spot and "buzz the grass to the ground," he says. "Bison always leave grass instead of destroying the ecosystem. They're just easier on the environment."


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coffeetime9

dikincaide 1856
You are so right. We canbring back (somewhat) the bison, too bad we cannot do the same for the native americans we almost totally wipe off the face of America!

August 15 2014 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dlkincaide1856

It's good to know history and understand that the senseless killing of entire populations of people, animals or plants has a way of coming back to haunt the people who choose to selfishly interrupt the circle of life! The return of the American bison population is clearly a good sign of the restoration of the balance of nature to its original state of existence. On the other hand, America is just beginning to experience the natural and spiritual repercussions for the heartless actions of the wicked and greedy!

August 14 2014 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dlkincaide1856's comment
abourge458

True enough.......
Right now, researchers are finding cancer cures in the proteins of scorpion poison, poisonous snakes, and even in sharks.
Research is being done on Crocs and Gators over their remarkable immune systems that help them survive (even with open-wound injuries) in the muck and slime of swamps.
Heck, the Panama canal would never been built and millions over the Earth would have died without quinine (from a tree) .
Luckily, humans didn't wipe out ALL the Chicona trees, sharks and other creatures ...YET!

Would be ironic huh if some exterminated animal from the past had a "Fountain of youth" in their blood? Some tortoises live in the HUNDREDS of years.
Perhaps an extinct animal once lived 500 or more!

August 15 2014 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JOY MARIE

HEARTLESS GREEDY HUMANS, IF ANY WERE LEFT TODAY, THEY SHOULD PAY, NOT sure how, let the indians deside. I am a white gal, legal equal rights for all humanity. who do not break the laws. we (humans) all bleed red

August 14 2014 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
abourge458

UFO's visited Earth. They evolved from a bovine-like ancester on a planet with only herbivore creatures.

They came. they saw, and were horrified to see the dominant species "Barbarically" killing, shredding apart, and... EATING other species.

Stunned, they hastily departed and vowed to never return, even swearing themselves to secrecy lest their fellow beings think they were space-mad to tell such a tale.

A gift of space travel technology they HAD planned on offering as a gift to Earth beings was permanently tucked away in a bin onboard.

August 14 2014 at 11:32 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to abourge458's comment
gee.effwye

Lay off the.narcotics

August 22 2014 at 8:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda

All the ignorant people who go to Yellowstone and expect to be able to PET the buffalo because they are roaming around freely...how stupid can you be? They'll rip you a new ass quicker than you can say hole. They are WILD animals. They are not Tame. They are not Domesticated. Stop trying to make them your pet in a picture.

August 14 2014 at 10:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Linda's comment
dgcajun101

how right you are!! several people in the past couple of years have been hospitalized due to that kind of thinking!! 'oh they are tame, look at them they are so close and nothing bothers them!!" you are taking your life into your own hands. I know cause I had an 8 pt. buck (4 pt in the nw!) come walking up and nudge me. the second I touched his head he hit me with the antlers and all I could think of was stay away from the hooves and the horns. didn't have time to think, dummy get on the car and get away from him. if I had not been in perfect shape I would be dead now!! that was a 140# mule deer, so think about a 1400# buffalo that will tear down a fence, ram a car etc.!

August 14 2014 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CHUCK

Your lead in had absolutely nothing to do with the story. What is happening with all you people at AOL? Well, I can say this for a fact, they didn't use the over use word "creature" in the article.

August 14 2014 at 9:15 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CHUCK's comment
mortwiw

Many details about bison behavior, abilities and history are presented in several paragraphs in the written story below the video.

August 14 2014 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
meyer1110

The government send to slaughter all the time.
Now they are sending our Wild horses to slaughter also.
Who knew the U S Government was in the animal abuse and slaughter business using our tax dollars for it.

August 14 2014 at 9:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dotlhs56

Very interesting and good to know. At one time there were several on a farm in Manchester, GA. Not sure if they are still there or not but they were very interesting animals that we had only seen in movies.

August 14 2014 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
starkeyjello

Its too bad we have to kill creatures to find something to eat- I don't think it was supposed to be this way as we became more intelligent.

August 14 2014 at 8:40 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to starkeyjello's comment
oneman689

stark - How did you think it was supposed to be??

August 14 2014 at 9:03 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
mdbradley45@aol.

Lady bird JONNSON said to KEEP Amercia BEATUIFICA

VERY GOOG

August 14 2014 at 8:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply