The burger chain this summer introduced Fudds Exotics, a line of sandwiches made from meat that didn't come from cows. The first entry in the series, a half-pound buffalo burger, was among the most successful new product rollouts in Fuddruckers' history. The restaurant plans to start offering wild boar and ostrich burgers later this year.
But last week belonged to elk, as the chain unveiled its $10 all-natural, free-range elk burger.
Prime cuts of elk have long been a staple of high-end menus. But North American Elk Breeders Association President Brain Wagner, who says fellow ranchers are always looking for buyers interested in the trim, doesn't recall any major chain ever selling elk.
"Elk meat's becoming very popular," he says. "It's very healthy, and people are catching on."
According to Wagner, elk is high in protein, low in cholesterol and very lean.
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"Hunters have been enjoying elk for years," Wagner says. "It's closer to beef than venison."
But until Fuddruckers jumped into the elk meat game, most unarmed middle-class eaters would only encounter elk at the jerky counter, Wagner says.
Wagner says he's not worried that the restaurant classifying elk as an "exotic" meat will doom it to novelty status. A former cattleman, Wagner enjoys elk three times a week.
"I'm hoping it's a long-term thing," Wagner says of the Fuddruckers burger, which he hasn't yet tried. "It's a huge benefit to our industry."