Arby's is introducing a limited edition elk-meat sandwich at three restaurants in three western states, and Montana is on the list.
The sandwich will appear Saturday at the Arby's on King Avenue West in Billings. The other restaurants are in Casper, Wyoming, and Thorton, Colorado.
The Elk Sandwich will appear on menus along with Arby's Venison Sandwich, which was introduced in five restaurants last year. The venison offering was popular enough that Arby's expanded it this year to all its restaurants nationwide.
Arby's bills itself as the only fast-food chain to put game on the menu. The Elk Sandwich will be an elk steak with blackberry port steak sauce and crispy onions on a toasted roll. The Venison Sandwich is similar. It will have a venison steak with juniper berry sauce and crispy onions on a toasted roll.
The venison and elk steaks served by Arby's come from game farms in New Zealand, according to the company.
While game farms exist in the U.S., few are big commercial operations comparable to what exists in New Zealand. In Montana, game farms were outlawed in the late 1990s.
"The commercial elk game farms went out about 20 years ago," said Bob Gibson with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Voters approved a ballot initiative to make game farms illegal, adding to laws already on the book outlawing commercial hunting of wild big game. Montana's constitution states that wildlife in the state belongs to the people, Gibson said.
It also means a hunter in Montana can't bag an elk or deer on the weekend and sell it to his local steak house. Commercial hunting like that decimates big game populations, Gibson said.
Still, he finds Arby's move into the big game market interesting; it's not something he's ever seen before in the state.
Gibson added that he's not sure yet he wants to try one. Red deer with their big antlers look a lot like elk to people who have never seen an elk, he quipped.
"Someone should test those steaks," he said with a laugh.