Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Yak, as a meat product, is very nutritious. Like Bison, it is a very lean meat but maintains its juiciness if not overcooked. Yak is high in iron and low in cholesterol and is a little smaller than beef resulting in a finer muscle fiber structure. In the US it is fabricated and processed like beef using the same basic carcass separation points and names for cuts. All of the valuable middle meat cuts such as rib eye and striploin are available but most of the inexpensive chuck cuts are being ground for burger. Some of these cuts may be available if you contact the producer directly.
Yak is also known for its milk and it has a quality butterfat content making it good for butter and cheese making. Yak yogurt is tangy and delicious.
The animals also possess a long hair that can be woven, similar to long haired goats. The springtime release of winter hair is collected and used for woolen fabrics and contrary to some lore, yak hair has no strong odor.
Farming Yak is confined to areas that stay somewhat cool year round. Canada, Alaska, high mountain regions or plateaus in western states and the northern New England states all have yak ranches. http://www.iyak.org/ is a good source to find farms. The Vermont Yak Company in Waitsfield VT., sells meat on line, at local farm markets and now has a foodtruck that sells cooked Yak dishes. In Colorado the Grunniens Yak ranch sells meat and breeding stock http://www.theyakranch.com/ There are many other sources out there and some commercially available for chefs at locations like Fossil Farms which sells all sorts of exotic meat items.
Some restaurants are starting to feature Yak on their menus. Here is an example of a trendy tap room on Beacon Hill serving Yak http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/food-dining/2012/07/05/chef-brian-poe-new-restaurant-tip-tap-room-brings-yak-meat-and-draft-beer-beacon-hill/htwpX5lXzAB24t6BPrJn8L/story.html and another Canadian example...
Yak, like Bison, does not require USDA inspection but most processors are using either the USDA or state inspection services. The voluntary USDA stamp is different than the typical symbol.