Express News Service
GUWAHATI: Yak farmers of Himalayan highlands have a reason to cheer as the scientific panel of the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India has approved the recommendation of the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying to declare Himalayan yak as a food animal.
The ‘food animal’ tag will become official once it is notified in the gazette after approval by a competent authority. “The reason why the yak population is decreasing is yak farming is less remunerative. The animal’s milk and meat are not part of the conventional meat and dairy industry and are consumed only locally. Also, there is no big market,” Mihir Sarkar, director of ICAR-National Research Centre on Yak, Department of Agricultural Research and Education, Ministry of Agriculture, told this newspaper. He said if yak is declared a food animal, the economic benefits it could bring may encourage more people to take up yak farming.
Yak milk is highly nutritious. It is rich in fat and protein and contains many essential minerals. It is also deemed to have medicinal value. As per the nutritional analysis, yak milk contains 78-82% water, 7.5-8.5% fat, 4.9-5.3% protein, 4.5-5.0% lactose and 12.3-13.4% fat and solids-not-fat. Traditional yak milk products are central to the cuisine of the highlanders.
Yak meat is considered lean and better than beef. India has around 58,000 yaks, found on the heights of Arunachal, Sikkim, Himachal and Ladakh. In Arunachal, their population is estimated at 24,000, found in Tawang, West Kameng and Shi Yomi districts. Though the animal has intense socio-cultural significance to the pastoral rearing communities, the past few decades witnessed a decline in its population. The decline is partly blamed on a lack of interest on the part of today’s youngsters to engage in yak rearing as it is a demanding job that offers very less in return.