Elk Is Having A Moment On Restaurant Menus

Adventurous meat lovers will be happy to know that tender elk meat is appearing on more restaurant menus than ever before. If you've had the great pleasure of tasting a freshly grilled elk steak for yourself, then you'll understand what all the hype is about. Popular ways to enjoy this Rocky Mountain delicacy include juicy tenderloin, flavorful burgers, jerky, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and sausage. The taste of elk differs when compared to beef due to its alfalfa and grass-fed diet, and they "are never given any steroids, growth-promoting chemicals or general antibiotics," says Elk USA. When hunting season comes around each fall, game hunters flock to the forests of the Western states in search of the best elk hunting spots, though exotic meats acquired by this means tend to be gamier than what you'll find sold in restaurants.

While some eateries get their elk from free-range farms, around 80% of elk meat sold in restaurants in the States is actually shipped internationally from New Zealand. As the demand for this slightly sweet, savory type of meat becomes ever-increasing, elk meat can now be found at 0.9% of local diners and fine dining menus across the country. While that may seem like a pretty low number to some, the 115% increase over the past few years is certainly worth noting (via Nation's Restaurant News). But just what is it about elk meat that's made it so enticing to the culinary world?

Elk meat is a much healthier alternative to beef

Although elk farming and domestic breeding is a relatively new practice in the United States that started in the '90s, it's become a pretty competitive market as more people discover this tasty hidden gem. Elk farms span thousands of acres across the Western Plains, making it the perfect wild environment for the elk to graze to their heart's content. While most cattle feed on a starchy grain-fed diet, elk are herbivores, so their meat is much lower in fat and full of protein and nutrients, and it has the lowest calorie count of any red meat (per WebMD). It's easy to see why this heart-healthy alternative to beef is becoming a favored dish.

Preparing it can be tricky due to the lean nature of the meat, which allows it to dry out more quickly. Don't make the mistake of overcooking it! Leave it to really taste all the mouthwatering flavors in their purest form. However, if you prefer your cut of elk to be cooked more, there are tons of delicious marinades out there that can be the perfect addition to a medium or well-done carnivorous feast. 

Both casual and seasoned elk eaters have described its flavor as having "a much deeper taste than beef" and "a subtle hint of earthy flavors" (per Eat Elk Meat). The next time you head out West, make a pitstop at a local diner with elk on the menu to experience a luscious morsel for yourself. Your palate will thank you.