Arby’s has the meat – and it’s gamey
Arby’s is renowned for sandwiches stacked with thin-sliced roast beef. But the chain recently offered an option that was uncharacteristically gourmet, both for itself and quick-service restaurants in general – a venison burger.
Arby’s did a one-day chain-wide promotion of its venison burger earlier in October, as reported by Eater. The sandwich was originally launched at a few select locations (in markets known to have a lot of hunters) as a limited-time promotion last November. But this year’s one-day promotion had customers throughout the country lined up out the door.
Supplies, however, are limited supply — it took Arby’s a year to source enough venison from its supplier to manage the promotion. Further, regulations and high prices could also prevent wild game from going mainstream. Still, the success of Arby’s venison burger may make more fast-food restaurants want to look into exotic meat.
Exotic meats have grown popular over the years among foodies looking for a unique dining experience. Chicago’s now-closed Hot Doug’s, for instance, was well-known for offering sausages made out of non-traditional meats like alligator and kangaroo.
And some fast-casual chains have also become known for their exotic items. Fuddruckers, for instance, offers a menu featuring elk at some locations. And the Ted Turner-owned Ted’s Montana Grill boasts a menu built around sustainable bison.
Exotic meats have also gained interest for practical reasons.
The notorious mid-1990s spate of Mad Cow Disease infections in the UK led to a decade-long ban on British beef in the U.S., along with a spike in the consumption of non-beef meat among those concerned with the safety and sustainability of beef production. As recently as 2004, eight years after the ban, the Chicago Tribune was reporting an increase in bison consumption tied to renewed anxieties over Mad Cow stateside.
Some sources indicate that exotic meat is experiencing another rise in popularity, with Specialty Food reporting that in Canada, there was a 10.6 percent increase in the consumption of exotic meats between 2010 and 2015. The meats tracked include horse, venison, camel and rabbit. Bison, ostrich and zebra were not represented in these numbers.
- Arby’s Leads the Way for Game Meats to Go Mainstream – Eater
- Exotic Meat Consumption on the Rise in Canada – Specialty Food
- Mad cow beefing up interest in buffalo meat – Chicago Tribune
- Fudds Exotic Burgers – Fuddruckers
- Our History – Ted’s Montana Grill
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does the success of Arby’s venison burger indicate room for game meats to become regular or semi-regular offerings at quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants? Is the success of the venison burger due more to viral excitement or demand for more sustainable, unique burgers?