Nutrition for an AKtive Life
Although yak meat is generally considered to taste much like beef, some characteristics of an animal's meat are influenced by the natural environment from where it originated. For thousands of years yak adapted and thrived in the harsh environment of the Himalayas, with cold temperatures and a lower concentration of oxygen.
Like the bison that roamed on the Canadian prairies, a yak's natural environment is known for some bitterly cold temperatures. Therefore, both species deposit fat subcutaneously (below the skin), rather than intramuscularly. This process provides natural insulation for the animals through extreme cold. It also serves as a storage of energy reserves for winter months when quality forage is naturally limited. As a result, both animals provide very lean cuts of meat.
In addition it is intramuscular fat that is comprised of the harmful saturated fatty acids. Therefore, yak meat has a much higher proportion of beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids, including a greater ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids than other cattle.15 16 As a result, tests have shown that yak meat has higher content of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids than beef, pork and poultry. 7. Yak meat has also been tested to show lower cholesterol than beef pork, poultry, and some fish.7.
In addition to the cold temperatures experienced at high elevations, yak have also adapted to thrive where oxygen content can be reduced to half the concentration at sea level, higher than any other mammal.9
To survive at these altitudes, with a lower concentration of oxygen, yak meat has an enhanced myoglobin content. 2 Myoglobin is an iron rich protein used for storing oxygen in muscle cells and it is the iron atom that binds to the oxygen molecule. The presence of myoglobin is visually evident by the colour of the meat. 14
Not only have studies reported a higher protein and iron content in yak meat, they also show that yak meat has a superior balance of several essential amino acids. 8, 11
Due to these unique qualities yak meat is reported to have "higher nutritional value and health benefits compared to low-altitude ruminants". 4