Elk Might Be A Nontraditional Meat, But Its Menu Popularity Is Growing

For a lot of people, meat is a part of every single meal. Whether you're simmering a piping hot pot of chili, smashing burger patties on the grill, or roasting a juicy chicken breast, animal protein is likely playing a role on your plate. According to Statista, chicken is the most popular meat among American consumers, while beef is a distant second.

Though certain animals have come to characterize the dinner table, you don't need to limit your protein selection to the domesticated domain. Deer and Deer Hunting, citing a 2022 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, tells us that Americans eat 315 million pounds of venison, or deer meat, each year. The easily-bred and small-statured rabbit is a great sustainable meat choice. If you're looking to venture into the realm of the reptilian, these are the best alligator recipes. Another type of wild game, elk, has become increasingly popular as of late.

The rise of elk in the culinary sphere

Citing research carried out by Datassential, Restaurant Hospitality tells us elk has become 115% more common on restaurant menus. You may be tempted to attribute the meat's rise in the restaurant industry to the recent surge in elk hunting — record-high elk permit requests forced the Utah Division of Wildlife to propose an entirely new set of hunting regulations, per KSL News. However, Restaurant Hospitality also explains that the elk meat eaten in restaurants is generally farm-raised.

OpenTable provides us with a list of restaurants that have put elk on the dinner plate. At Charlotte, North Carolina's The Fig Tree, you can enjoy an expertly grilled elk chop with spaetzle, cabbage, and Boursin-Dijon sauce. The dish will run you $58. At Cloak & Petal, in San Diego, you used to be able to sample elk sashimi, which was lightly seared slices of elk seasoned with ginger and sesame oil. However, the dish is no longer on the restaurant's menu. Dallas, Texas-based Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse goes big and bold with their elk entree, a sizeable hunk of tenderloin with an espresso crust.

Is elk a better red meat?

A recent survey revealed that venison is one of the wild game varieties that people are most interested in trying. As such, it's understandable why venison would be rising in popularity. According to Eat Elk Meat, elk has a less gamey flavor than deer, which could make it more desirable to the average consumer. This is especially true of farm-raised elk, which are fed a specific diet.

Flavor aside, there are a slew of potential health benefits associated with elk meat. It is a low-fat, protein-rich, vitamin-filled food, per US Wellness Meats. Elk is about half as caloric as beef, the king of red meat.

Additionally, in an increasingly ecologically tumultuous time, venison may come to be desired for its sustainability. Even farm-raised elk are free-range and eat a diet of grasses and roughage, which eliminates the need for supplemental food sources (via Gourmet Food Store).