The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has approved the Himalayan Yak as a ‘food animal’.
The move is expected to help check decline in the population of the high-altitude bovine animal by making it a part of the conventional milk and meat industry, an official at the National Research Centre (NRC) on Yak at Dirang in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh said.
Food Animals are those that are raised and used for food production or consumption by humans.
The NRC-Yak had in 2021 submitted a proposal to the FSSAI, for considering the yak as a food animal. However, The FSSAI responded with an official approval recently after a recommendation from the department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, NRC-Yak Director Dr Mihir Sarkar informed.
The animal play multi-dimensional socio-cultural-economic role for the pastoral nomads who rear yaks mainly for earning their nutritional and livelihood security due to virtual inexistence of other agricultural activity in the high reaches of Himalayan region.
Traditionally, yaks are reared under transhumance system which is primitive, unorganized and full of hardship.
“FSSAI’s recognition of Yak as food producing animal will help farmers benefit economically for rearing the animal and it will open up several vistas of economic benefits for both farmers and food processors,” Dr Sarkar said.
He said the Centre has developed a semi-intensive model of yak rearing in which yaks are maintained in open area as well as in paddock round the year. It is widely believed that declaration of yak as a food animal by FSSAI will pave the way for its commercial rearing and consumption by adopting the yak rearing model developed by NRC-Yak.
Dr Sarkar said that the Yak population in the country is decreasing at an alarming rate over the years.
As per the latest census carried out in 2019, India has 58,000 yaks which is around 25 per cent drop from last livestock census carried out in 2012.
“This drastic decline in yak population in India has become a cause of concern to the local users, government officials and those who promote conservation for animal genetic diversity,” Dr Sarkar said.
Yak milk is highly nutritious, rich in fat, contain essential minerals and have medicinal value.
Yak farmers produce various traditional meat products. These products are confined to local community level, produced and sold locally, the director said, adding that Yak meat is known to be very lean and it is better than beef.
“The decline in yak population could be attributed to less remuneration from yak and so the younger generations are reluctant to continue with nomadic yak rearing. It is mainly because yak milk and meat are not a part of the conventional dairy and meat industry; their sale is limited to local consumers,” he said.
However, commercialization of these milk and meat products will lead to entrepreneurship development. But for that it has to enter into conventional meat industry, Dr Sarkar said.