Utah restaurant defends selling kangaroo burgers as Australian wildfires rage

ROY, Utah (KUTV/CNN) - While a popular Utah burger joint is known for its exotic meat specials, some customers say the restaurant shouldn’t have served kangaroo in light of the ongoing wildfires in Australia.

Several customers at the Burger Bar in Roy, Utah, say selling kangaroo burgers as the exotic meat special in January seems like an ill-timed decision.

“It’s probably not the best time to have it on the menu,” customer Rob Wilson said. “You see on the news images of kangaroos fleeing the fires through all the smoke and the haze.”

Experts estimate more than 1 billion animals have perished in the Australian wildfires since September.

But Burger Bar manager Joe Fowler says they ordered the kangaroo meat months ago. The order took a long time to process, and it finally came in at the end of December.

“It was on a ship coming this way long before the fires started,” Fowler said.

Fowler says they considered canceling the order and not serving the kangaroo, but they didn’t want the farm-fresh meat to go to waste.

"We actually considered not doing it, but kind of logistically, it’s very difficult to hold onto hundreds of pounds of meat. We don’t have space for it,” he said.

The manager says they’re helping Australia’s economy with their business.

"It shouldn’t offend people. Really, it’s just hamburgers. We’re not making a statement or anything like that,” Fowler said.

While the kangaroo burger may have turned some customers away, the Burger Bar says it brought many more in. The store announced Sunday on Facebook that it had already run out of kangaroo meat for the month after selling around 400 burgers in two days.

Customer Bronson Volk was one of the people who got to try the kangaroo burger. He says he comes each month to try the exotic specials, and kangaroo is no exception.

"I think people should probably stop being so sensitive about stuff," he said.

The Burger Bar says it never serves meat from endangered animals and will reconsider its position on kangaroo burgers if the wildfires cause a major population decline.

Australia’s government allows millions of kangaroos to be hunted for meat each year.

Copyright 2020 KUTV via CNN. All rights reserved.