Arby’s Restaurants will offer an elk sandwich in certain states this fall, a follow-up to their introduction of “venison” last year.   Although the venison version was quite successful, the general public and hunters in particular should know that they are not serving whitetail or mule deer.  Venison comes from red deer, a species widely farmed in the Southern hemisphere, the USA, and Canada.

Velvet Farms

Red deer stags look much like Yellowstone elk in the USA.

Certain cultures believe that antler velvet acts as an aphrodisiac and deer farmers in New Zealand saw off red deer antlers to feed this demand.  Ironically, the price of a male red deer’s antlers (similar to our Yellowstone elk) generate enough income to make antler-farming profitable.   Now, with the new demand for venison, female red deer and those that don’t grow large antlers can be sold for meat.

A Slippery Slope

It’s important that the public know that venison and elk meat does not come from local sources.  The last thing hunters want is a market for wild game in the USA.  American bison, buffalo, are sold in many locations, yet most citizens know that these are raised like cattle and not truly wild animals.  In very rural areas, a black market may exist for deer and elk meat and all conservation minded sportsmen should be vigilant that this move by Arby’s does not carry over to our wild herds.

Here’s the latest on this issue from the Sporting Classics Daily website:

Now you can eat elk meat even if your hunt isn’t successful. Arby’s is doubling down on its wild-game offerings with a new elk sandwich, debuting just in time for hunting season. The addition is part of the fast-food chain’s aim to “have the meats,” whatever type it may be.
“We took a look at what hunters and wild-game enthusiasts love to talk about eating and elk was something that kept popping up, and we said, ‘This is another great-tasting game meat we think our guests would enjoy,’” Arby’s Chief Marketing Officer Jim Taylor told USA Today.

Arby’s Doubles Down on Wild Game with Elk Sandwiches