Is Yak Meat the New Protein?

Photo credit: wulingyun/Getty

Although Anshu Pathak has raised and sold yak meat through his Perris, California company, Exotic Meat Market, since 1989, business has been on the upswing lately.

"Since last year, it has gone up 30 percent," Pathak told us, referring to the amount of yak meat he’s sold. He declined to give specific numbers, because "there’s too much competition, so I don’t want to talk about it too much."

There is indeed competition. One can order yak meat—a leaner, nuttier-tasting type of beef—online through businesses like DelYaks, Grunniens Yak Ranch, Turkey Hill Yaks, and more.

"There’s definitely been a growth spurt in the past five years, and a dispersion geographically,” said Jim Watson, president of the International Yak Association, in a recent interview with Modern Farmer. Watson’s organization, which was founded in 1992 with 15 member farms, has since ballooned to 100.

Yaks are native to the Tibetan plateau, and have long been used throughout the region for wool and meat. But they only arrived in the Western world around 1908, when Boy Scouts co-founder Ernest Thompson Seton had the notion that yaks might find a home where the buffalo roam—the North American prairie. By the 1980s and 90s, yak had begun to crop up on American exotic game ranches.

"Interest in exotic meats has always been there, but now people are becoming more conscious of it," Pathak said. He’s hopeful that sales will only continue to increase. "Yaks are amazing. It’s a divine meat! It’s something different … more and more farmers should go for it."