Thursday, February 5, 2009

Once you try yak, you never go back

The Yak, once found from Kashmir to China can now only be found wild in isolated highlands at elevations of above 14,000 feet due to them being extensively hunted for meat and hides. Wild herds range in size from 10 to 100 animals and consist of females and young, led by a few older males, with breeding males being mostly solitary. Yaks have been domesticated in Tibet for centuries, and from there were introduced into the rest of China. Domesticated Yaks are smaller than the wild ones, and come in a variety of colors, including: black, brown, reddish, piebald, and albino. Yaks can live on vegetation that is too sparse to sustain other forms of domesticated animals. The domestic Yak is an incredibly important part of Tibetan life and provides a source of milk, butter, meat, hair ( for cloth ), and leather and is also much used as a beast of burden.

Yaks were first introduced to North America in the early 1900's. They weren’t raised for their meat in North America until about 20 years ago. Yaks have become increasingly popular in the U.S. as they are easy to raise. They are very hardy (disease resistant), efficient consumers of forage, and domesticated (4-strand barbed wire suffices for fencing); and they have few birthing problems (with small calves) and thrive in varying environments. There are now an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 yaks in North America, compared to about 350,000 bison and 100 million cattle.

Yaks have very lean meat because, like bison, their fat is a separate layer outside the muscles that is easy to separate, unlike cows that have fat marbled with muscle. Yaks are exclusively grass-fed, and are very efficient food processors. A yak eats only about 1/3 of what a cow eats, and are very disease resistant, meaning they almost never get antibiotics, and they are not treated with growth hormones. Yak meat has twice the protein and half the fat of a skinless chicken breast. The fat that yak meat does contain, like any grass-fed meat, has very high percentages of omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acids (good fats). The meat is sweet and delicious tasting (not gamey).

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