Arby's to offer venison sandwich
Official: Florida's crop damage will be felt at holidays
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's famous oranges are still falling from trees and rotting on the ground weeks after Hurricane Irma, and the state's agriculture commissioner said Thursday there will be fewer Florida vegetables on Thanksgiving tables and a shortage of poinsettias at Christmas.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Florida farmers updated the state Senate Agriculture Committee that the storm damaged crops of all kinds, with losses topping $2.5 billion. Losses are reported to peanuts, avocados, sugar, strawberries, cotton and tomatoes. The storm also affected timber, milk production and lobster and stone crab fishing.
“The fresh winter vegetables that are on people's Thanksgiving tables won't be there this year because of Hurricane Irma,” Putnam said. “The losses are staggering; in many cases, the tale of those losses will be multiple years ... This is more than just damage contained in just one crop year.”
He said Irma's path couldn't have been “more lethal” for Florida agriculture, with few crops spared. The citrus industry was particularly hard hit, with some estimates of more than half the orange crop lost.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its Florida citrus forecast Thursday, estimating that Florida will produce 54 million boxes of oranges, down 21 percent from last year.
But the Florida Citrus Mutual said the federal government should have delayed the forecast because it's still too early to tell just how hard hit the industry was after the storm. It said production would be closer to 31 million boxes of oranges, or a 55 percent drop from the 68.7 million boxes produced in the 2016-2017 season.
“Irma hit us just a month ago and although we respect the skill and professionalism of the USDA, there is no way they can put out a reliable number in that short time period,” said Michael W. Sparks, CEO of the Florida Citrus Mutual.
The agricultural losses are expected to affect consumers, but how much so is still to be determined.
“I would expect prices to rise as a result of the winter vegetable capital of America being put out of the production going into the holiday season,” Putnam said, but he added that there could be a flood of foreign fruit and produce entering the market that could keep prices from rising — something he said could further hurt Florida farmers.
Arby's has its sights set on hungry hunters with its latest offering.
On Oct. 21 the quick-service restaurant will offer a venison sandwich at locations across the country.
All Tulsa-area stores, except for the downtown location, will offer the sandwich that day.
Some stores will have 50 servings while others will have 100.
“As you can imagine, it's difficult to source a venison supplier for 3,300 Arby's restaurants and be able to sell venison on the open market for a limited time. It's just not sustainable,” said Fred Fleischner, spokesman for Tulsa-based U.S. Beef Corp., Arby's largest franchisee.
“If you're one of the first in line at 10 a.m. when we open, you'll be able to be one of the lucky ones in Tulsa to get their very own venison sandwich without having to sit up in a tree for some time waiting on the hunt.”
The venison sandwich features a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll, according to the restaurant. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and sous-vide for three hours.
The juniper sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with berries.
The sandwich was first offered on limited basis last year in select markets.
“The positive response to our limited offering of venison last year was so widespread and passionate that we knew we had to find a way to offer it nationwide,” said Jim Taylor, chief marketing officer of Arby's Restaurant Group Inc.