But I’ve never had yak meat.
That may soon change, considering this Yahoo article titled “Is Yak Meat the New Protein?”
Yak meat, which the article calls a “leaner, nuttier-tasting type of beef,” is apparently gaining in popularity in North America.
But before we look ahead to consider whether Scouts will be munching on yak jerky on their next backpacking trip, let’s look back.
Because without Ernest Thompson Seton, the first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America, yak might not even exist in North America.
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.
As this paper by Dianne Latona explains, the Canadian-raised Seton considered bringing yaks to North America — specifically Canada — because they are hardy beasts. “They could be the perfect livestock for this inhospitable region; hardier than range cattle, more tractable than bison, and equipped with coats impervious to the most extreme cold.”
And so with the help of the Canadian government, Seton brought six yaks from England to North America: “an aged bull, a yearling bull, two aged cows and two yearling heifers.”
With the North American yak population slowly growing, Seton wrote an article for Country Life in America magazine titled “The Yak — A North American Opportunity,” and word of his plan spread quickly.
In the article, Seton shares what he knows about yak meat:
From all authorities we learn that the flesh of the Yak is merely beef differing if at all from the common cattle in being finer grained. The veal in particular is described as excellent.
Different opinions are expressed about the milk. The Duchess of Bedford characterised what she got in India as thin blue stuff, but Fortund Nott says besides being good eating the yak yields the best of milk for it is as rich as cream and the butter made from it is superior to all others.
Possibly individual differences may account for these two discrepant accounts. Or it may be that the Duchess received her supply from the regular milkman.
Sir JD Hooker is responsible for the statement that when the calf is reduced to veal the foot is always saved for the mother as she will not yield her milk unless she have at least the foot failing the entire stuffed skin of her young one to lick and fondle.
The Yak is generally used as a beast of burden and for the saddle in Thibet. As a pack animal it carries about the same load as a horse of its weight. It is not liable to chafe as its wool protects it.
It is slow going, only twenty miles a day, but is more sure footed than either horse or mule indeed in this respect it is comparable to the goat or the mountain sheep.
As a saddle beast it presents few advantages for besides being slow it has usually to be led.
Seton’s outdoor-focused writings are legend: Wild Animals I Have Known made him famous, and some elements from The Birch-Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians were used in the first Boy Scout Handbook.
But it was his vision for yaks and his subsequent writings about the giant beasts that are responsible for what may some day be your protein of choice.
H/T: Thanks to Scouter Michael Marks for the story idea.