Burger King Is Running Out of Zesty Sauce Because of Climate Change

Public Domain. Pixabay – Grating horseradish with goggles to get that zesty taste

The 2019 horseradish crop was battered by unusually harsh weather, and the effects are showing up in fast food joints.

A shortage of Zesty Onion Dip at Burger King has distressed many people, who have turned to Twitter to express their frustration. What's apparent, however, is that not many people understand why their favorite condiment is in short supply and will not be available in large quantities until spring 2020 – and that has to do with horseradish.

Horseradish is a key ingredient in the zesty sauce, and it comes from the humble horseradish root, which looks something like a parsnip. Most horseradish comes from Wisconsin, where it is cultivated by Silver Spring Foods; but the company recently announced "a general shortage of the increasingly popular condiment and ingredient, due to unusually harsh weather in Spring and Fall 2019."

Food & Wine reported,

"Specifically, last winter ended with a massive eight-foot snowfall in Eau Claire County, home to over half of Silver Spring Foods current crops, causing 'an extremely wet and muddy Spring, which delayed harvesting and planting,' according to the brand. Then, this fall, an abnormally wet September and October plagued growers in the Midwest while early frost messed with Minnesota's crop."

In a statement, company president Eric Rygg described 2019 as "a double-whammy for U.S. horseradish in terms of the weather" that has also affected other horseradish farmers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

So now the horseradish that was supposed to get harvested this fall will have to stay in the ground until spring (to the tune of between 1.5 and 2 million pounds), which means that the shortage won't be felt acutely until March/April; however, horseradish is a hardy tuber that can withstand this crazy weather and the shortage will correct itself quickly as soon as it's dug up.

It is an interesting reminder of just how connected our food supply is to the weather, despite our culture's persistent ignorance (or should I say denial?) of that fact. The way we eat doesn't help. Fast food chains like Burger King process ingredients into food-like products that hardly resemble their previous selves, which makes it even harder for diners to understand that the zesty zing of their favorite sauce comes from a knobby root that's currently stuck in a frozen, snow-covered field and cannot be accessed for the time being.

Burger King might do well to explain some basic agricultural concepts to its customers, but then that could lead to awkward conversations about beef, so maybe it's no surprise that the company is sticking to withholding zesty sauce handouts – and ticking off customers in the process.