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A mother bison with her calf at North Quarter Farm Photo Monique Singh-Roy

With more than 250 animals, North Quarter Farm on Roanoke Ave. in Riverhead is considered one of the East Coast’s largest herds of bison, according to the farm’s owner. The bison are bred and raised on the farm and some are culled for slaughter to become the star attraction at Tweed’s Restaurant and Buffalo Bar in downtown Riverhead.

The buffalo and restaurant are part of a several decades long love affair for Tweed’s and North Quarter owner Ed Tuccio that began in 1985.

“It was insanity,” he says as he surveys his buffalo from a pickup truck. “I was in Colorado on a ski trip and saw two bison. So I bought two pregnant females and the rest is history.”

Tuccio bought the bison from Custer State Park located in the black hills of South Dakota. There a herd of 1,300 bison — considered one of the largest herds in the world — roam freely through the park.

Since then Tuccio’s herd has grown, especially during calving season when females give birth.

“This year we’ve had a very good survival rate of calves, I would say upwards of 70, it could even go as high as 100,” he said.

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Tuccio likes to observe this time of year with a calf naming contest. Customers have a chance to win a $100 Tweed’s gift certificate if their baby bison name is chosen. All you have to do is stop in at Tweed’s Restaurant in Riverhead, fill out an entry form, submit it and if they pick your choice, you’re a winner.

Bison, in general, are doing very well these days. No longer considered an endangered species after being hunted nearly to extinction in the 19th century, approximately 500,000 bison currently live on privately owned land, with another 20,000 living in the wild, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. More and more bison are being raised for human consumption these days, too.

North Quarter Farm only raises and breeds its herd for Tweed’s restaurant, which features dishes like “grilled bison cowboy steak” and “Tweed’s bison burger,” Tuccio said. But because the herd is so strong, he recently sold about 100 bison to actor Dan Ackroyd, who has a farm in Tennessee.

“The more bison becomes available, the bigger the demand gets,” said Tuccio. “It’s very low in fat, less fat than chicken or fish, it’s high in iron and low in cholesteral”.

Tweed’s Restaurant and Buffalo Bar is located at 17 East Main Street in Riverhead, NY. The contest deadline is July 30, 2015.

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One of North Quarter Farm's male bulls Photo Monique Singh-Roy
One of North Quarter Farm’s male bulls. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)