Scientists at the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) here have found very high omega-3 fatty acid in the meat of yak, the only animal that can survive in minus 40ºC. The centre, established in 1989, is under Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
The three components of this fatty acid – eicosopentenoic acid, docosohexanoic acid and conjugated linolenic acid – helps combat cardiovascular diseases by keeping cholesterol in check.
“Cardiac problems are scarce among high-altitude dwellers who consume yak meat, which has higher nutritional value and health benefits compared to low-altitude ruminants,” NRCY senior scientist KP Ramesha said.
The furry yak is found in four Indian states – Jammu and Kashmir (53,000 as per 2003 animal census), Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim (7,000) and Himachal Pradesh (2,000) – between altitudes 7,000 ft and 14,500 ft.
The high omega-3 content in the yak’s meat is attributed to higher concentration of red blood corpuscles that are much bigger than other ruminants. The high RBC count increases oxygen retention at altitudes where air is usually rarified.
“The traditional way of smoke-drying yak meat for consumption is, however, carcinogenic (cancer-causing),” said scientist Guninathan Kandeepan of NRCY’s livestock product technology unit. “So we have developed yak meat pickle besides a meat drying technique involving pre-treatment with sodium chloride, anti-oxidants and sodium nitrite to neutralize agents causing food poisoning.”
NRCY also has good news for those who find red meat yucky. It has developed an array of yak milk products from enrobed paneer fingers to flavoured whey beverage that can be had like tetra-pack juices.
“Yak milk has a smell that needs getting used to; it also has a high 5-7 per cent fat. We have treated the milk with citric acid to eliminate the smell other than cutting down paneer fat content to 1 per cent,” Kandeepan said.
NRCY has also standardized paneer punched with powdered coriander and guar gum to raise dietary fibre without forgoing its nutrient value. The other standardized products include a lozenge-like variant of the traditional churkham – hardened chunk of a yak farmer’s cheese – that boosts energy.