Piatt County’s Lieb Brothers experienced the jump in consumer demand as other livestock farmers during the pandemic. Jake and Josh Lieb of Monticello have fielded many calls from people searching for locally raised meat.

Their bison make quite an impression, too.

Josh and Jake farm together, growing corn and soybeans on farmland in Piatt, Macon, Moultrie and Champaign counties. Jake oversees the families’ 50-head grass-fed bison herd on the fifth generation family farm. The two brothers are active in Farm Bureau with Jake serving on the Piatt County Farm Bureau Board and Josh on the Piatt County FS Board.

This year, demand for bison meat skyrocketed. “People called wanting big orders,” Jake said. “I’ve turned down tons of people.” A Chicago restaurant owner wanted to buy two animals a month, but Jake declined, explaining theirs is a small herd.

Lieb Farms recently restocked its freezer with 2-pound packages of ground bison, steaks, roasts and other cuts after being sold out during July.

Lieb bison may be bought at Urbana’s Common Ground Food Co-op or directly from the farm by preordering and calling 217-637-0924. Visit Lieb Farms or follow the farm’s Facebook page. Monticello’s Fieldhouse 219 restaurant menu includes Lieb bison. The farm also sells bison hides and skulls to interested customers.

Their bison herd includes 15 breeding cows and a bull from southwest Wyoming, the only animal brought into the closed herd since 2000 when the Liebs first started.

Hardy and well adapted to Illinois, the bison do well on pasture and require little medical attention other than multivitamins and worming, according to Jake.

A grass-fed system produces lean meat, but also takes longer. “Grass fed takes three years for an animal to reach market weight,” Jake said.

As for adapting the farm for bison, Jake explained their 5-foot, six-strand high-tensile fence and heavy duty corral work well. The big animals are hauled in a double-wall aluminum trailer.

Along with increasing demand for Lieb Farms bison, Jake noticed other impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. “People want to know where their food comes from,” he said. “They want to know if it is locally raised. There’s something to be said for locally produced food.”