Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Zak The Yak says: "Happy Holidays!"

Faithful readers of our blog may recall one of our yaks, named Zak, heading north to Vermont's Hero Islands a few years back to live on a farm up there. We just got a nice holiday card from Zak and owner Joan:

Joan writes: Thought you might like to see a current picture of “Zak the Yak”. Our vet estimates his weight to be about 750 lbs. – not bad for the little guy we picked up a couple of years ago! He still has his wonderful sense of humor, which includes bugging the crap out of Mac the llama and being regularly spit at by Mac. Zak is now above all the goats in the pecking order, which he seems to enjoy, and he is also their guardian. Whether he is protecting the goats or his territory I’m not sure but it works out well for the goats either way. His favorite treat is goat grain, which he gladly comes running for, with his white poof of a tail tossed up over his back, grunting occasionally along the way. He likes to be petted and hanging out with us, and I am able to put a halter on him while he is out in the pasture, which always amazes me. We trim his hooves in the spring and fall, and he tolerates that quite well. I haven’t gotten any usable fiber from him yet but he has more than enough “wool” to keep himself cozy even in the coldest of weather, but he always seems to take refuge in the barn! Hope all is well with everyone and all your critters. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


For more information on these magnificent animals, contact Rob @ 802-279.3364 (Yakberry mobile) or via e-mail @

JONAH: A 3 1/2-year-old yak bull. Born 2008. Grandson of the largest yak in North America.

KATE: A 5-year-old yak cow. Born 2006. A fabulous mama who produces healthy offspring.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zach's Yak Attack (RECIPE): (Manly) Turkey Bacon Yak

Thanks to Zachary "Mountain Man" Faulkner for this delicious and manly yak recipe.

So, this is what a manly dinner looks like before I ingest it.

A pound of turkey bacon, cooking next to a pound of delicious yak.

I don't recommend eating all of it in one sitting, the yak lasted two meals and the bacon made appearances for four meals.

Now, my cooking style is on the fly and with little to no measuring of any kind - I like to see what happens with a pinch here, a dab that, a top coming off...well, that's just too much.

Anyways, in the yak I added (to taste, after some "testing"): Garlic Salt, Onion Powder, Cayenne Pepper (me likes a little heaaat), and two eggs.

After it was all mixed together, I patted own the outside of each burger (on both sides) with an even ratio mix of ground pepper and salt (again, to taste).

Cook to you own liking, apply carb exterior with bacon, and I enjoyed garnishing it with some Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce - pro tip: add in some honey for some custom honey bbq action.

That about sums up my cooking adventure.

As always, a nice cold one goes well with red meat, and a manly pose while eating is quasi optional, meaning you should at least strike a pose initially for the first bite, or raise an arm in triumphant delight on the last bite.

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yak Rodeo for Fall 2011: Jonah Jumps The Gate


We'd never seen a 1200 pound yak bull jump a fence gate either.

Until today.

We've entitled this photo "Jonah Jumps The Fence."

Other than this moment, yak rodeo proceeded as normal.

Which is to say, never a dull moment when you are yakking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RECIPE: Yak and Delicata Curry

Thanks to our neighbor David Cohen @ Baked Beads for this yak'tastic recipe. And the photo.

Jarred curry paste, peeled delicatas, chopped onions, and ground yak.

Read more at his blog - David Doesn't Bake.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

YAK TRACKS: TruthDig/"Yak = the Planet's Greenest Red Meat"

Thanks to indy journalist Chris Ketcham and TruthDig for publishing an in-depth article on grass-fed yakking as an alternative to typical beef production in giant corporate commercial grain-fed feedlots.

One correction - livestock grazing, when practiced properly, can work in tandem with other agri/permacultural strategies to create regenerative ecosystems. Here's hotshot Allan Savory's talk on this point.

Yak to the future, we go!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

YAK TRACKS: Yak Rodeo - June 2011!

Our annual early summer yak rodeo - rounding up the herd for tagging, worming, preg checks and general fun - went off without a hitch yesterday.

Which is to say - no one died.

Here are some photos of the big afternoon. Find many more on our Facebook site at "Vermont Yak Company."

Yak to the future, we go!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

YAK TRACKS: The Calves Are Coming, the Calves Are Coming!

Spring is in the air here in Vermont's Mad River Valley, and the yak nursery is beginning to fill with calves.

Here are our first two - with many more to come. We'll keep the photos coming!

Mama Dolores and the first yak calf of the spring 2011 season.

Mama Black Magic Woman and her newborn yak calf.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

YAK TRACKS: Order your 2011 CSA yak meat "share" today!

Yes, yak friends. It's true!

We still have 20 yak CSA "shares" left to sell.

Order yours right here at the Vermont Yak Company web site.

And enjoy the planet's greenest red meat all summer and autumn long.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

YAK TRACKS: "Yak By Popular Demand" (BOSTON GLOBE article)

Thanks to journalist David Filipov and our friends at the Boston Globe for this article about our farm.

WAITSFIELD, Vt. — Big, strong, wooly, and ornery, Dolores the yak is named for a sadistic witch, and justifiably so. She once hoisted a 5-year-old boy on her long, sharp horns and tossed him over her back. She pinned an 8-year-old girl to a barn door. She knocked over her owner — the children’s father — and when he tried to get up knocked him over again.

For these random acts of violence, this shaggy rogue was neither put down nor sent to the barn without hay. Instead, Dolores became part of the lore shared by the hardy few Americans who herd yaks for a living. Each one you talk to has a yaks-behaving-badly story. Each one has asked him- or herself the question: Who’s herding whom?

Dolores is one of 40 yaks that belong to five farmers who brought the feisty bovids to the rolling glens of the Green Mountains. Their venture, Vermont Yak Company, aims to satisfy the growing appetite for exotic food that is locally raised, grass-fed, and free-roaming.

The farmers are part of a small but building movement of enthusiasts in the United States who value the yak for its lean meat — one-sixth the fat of grain-fed beef and 40 percent more protein.

Other exotic animals have caught on with niche audiences — bison burgers and ostrich jerky have their fans across the country — but none has gone so far as to replace the beef steer. The yak farmers do not expect to do that either — they know yak meat, with its sweet, slightly gamy taste, is not for everyone — but they figure they will attract the curious and a core market of locavores.

Yaks, which evolved in the Himalayas, make a certain amount of sense in Vermont, with its chilly climate and limited grazing land. They do not require warm barns and can thrive in fields where grass is sparse.

But ask herders what they like best about their yaks and they wax on about the individual personalities of animals that are curious like cats, spirited like ponies, and capable of far more mischief than one might expect from a ruminant cousin of the dairy cows that used to roam Vermont Yak’s 24 acres.

“Every day is different,’’ said Rob Williams, one of Vermont Yak Company’s founders. “Some days I call and they come. Some days they are like, ‘No, we’ll just stay here.’’’

The company supplies a stable of local eateries, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets with yak treats and is exploring direct sales to individual customers. The owners believe that their property, built on the former grazing land of a long-defunct dairy farm in the Mad River Valley, is the only working yak farm in New England. But they would like to be seen as pioneers rather than outliers in a state that they believe could be riding yak to the future.

“I would love to see Vermont become the New England go-to mecca of yak,’’ said Williams, a trim 43-year-old who also publishes an independent newspaper and teaches communications at Champlain College. “I would love to see a yak in every pot.’’

Williams said this one chilly morning, as he stood before a quintessential Vermont backdrop of snow-frosted farmhouses and silver-trimmed firs. He came under the regal gaze of a magnificent creature that looked as though it had wandered in from the Ice Age. This was Ringo, the 1,200-pound stud bull of the herd, unchallenged master of the pasture, whose long horns and occasional loud grunts were crying out for immediate attention. But Williams, a clump of hay clutched in his hand in front of him, was focused on a young steer with no name, just a number 4 attached to its coat.

“Mmmmmm, yakkie yakkie. Mmmm, yak,’’ Williams intoned, approaching carefully. The steer lowered its head and spread its front legs, the way a puppy might. It feinted. It grunted. It looked like it was about to charge.

“Oh, hello sweetie,’’ Williams cooed. “You want to come hit me. Yeah, yeah. That’s a yak thing.’’

Williams won this standoff. Steer Number 4 took the hay and wandered off, gratified.

Yaks — whose distinctive call lent them their Latin name, bos grunniens, the grunting ox — were first domesticated thousands of years ago. Tibetans and Nepalese have for centuries used them to plow and carry heavy loads high into the mountains, turned their thick hair and fiber into clothing, drunken their rich milk, and eaten their lean meat. Yaks were brought to North America in the 1900s; Minnesota yak herder John Hooper estimated that there are between 3,000 and 4,000 yaks in the United States, most of them in the high, arid parts of the West.

Williams and his wife, Kate, discovered the incredible, edible yak on a visit to her brother’s ranch in Montana. They figured the meat would be an easy sell to the thriving locavore market in Vermont. They learned that an acre of pasture can support as many as four yaks, as opposed to a single beef steer.

“We realized that yaks are the perfect Vermont bovine,’’ said Rob Williams.

The Williamses joined with David Hartshorn, whose family had owned the dairy farm, and Ted and Susan Laskaris, who bought the abandoned property in the Mad River Valley, to form their venture in the summer of 2007.

And they encountered the dilemma faced by other New England yakkers: the creatures are both loveable and maddening at the same time.

“They drive me crazy,’’ said Christopher Devaney of New Limerick, Maine, who owns 21 of the animals, all of them pets. “But it would break my heart to sell them.’’

Williams and his partners have an even bleaker problem — they love their yaks, but they have to slaughter them. So they raise only half their herd for meat. Those get numbers, like Steer Number 4.

“We don’t try to get to know them,’’ Williams said.

The other yaks are raised to breed, to attract visitors and possibly buyers. These have names, and are known for their personalities, including the ornery female named after Dolores Umbridge, the sorceress in the Harry Potter series.

Yaks are not easy pets to own. They can run surprisingly fast and leap fences. They routinely ignore their masters. But they can also learn to come when they are called, they are excellent substitutes for guard dogs, and they are popular among people who like to buy exotic pets.

Hooper, the Minnesota yak herder, makes his living that way. Marketing the meat, he said, is trickier.

“You need a yuppie type of people who are interested in lean, red meat,’’ he said.

That is not as big a problem for Vermont Yak Company. One customer, The Skinny Pancake, a trendy eatery in Burlington, recently sold out of the meat, which it was using in hearty dishes that bring out the sweet, earthy flavor of yak. These included chef Brian McDermott’s calorific masterpiece — yak sausage with pirogi crepes stuffed with cheddar and potato, and head-of-the-woods mushrooms sautéed in nutty brown butter. At $13.95 it was the most expensive item on the menu.

Vermont Yak is starting to roam beyond New England. A Tibetan restaurant in New York City has become one of its biggest customers. Williams is now trying to attract individual buyers; he recently sent 5 pounds of yak meat to a woman in Brooklyn who had tried the stuff at an outdoor fair and now cannot get enough.

“Once you go yak,’’ Williams said, “you never go back.’’

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

YAK TRACKS: "Get Your Yak On" for IRON CHEF 2011 - Yakitome!

We're gearing up for our first-ever Champlain College IRON CHEF competition.

Team "Yakitome" - featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick of 156 Bistro, Kathleen Barnes of Champlain's Office of Advancement, and the Vermont Yak Company, working with a DREAM team of Champlain students, will prepare and serve 500 servings of a special GET YOUR YAK ON dish at Champlain College's dining hall on Thursday afternoon, February 17, from 1-7.

Come by for some tasty treats, music by Michael Yakson, and more!

All in the service of raising money for the DREAM program.

Get your yak on!

Friday, February 4, 2011

YAK TRACKS: At a Beijing Penis Restaurant, Yak Penis Is The "Best"...

We'd like to say we're surprised. But no, just another reason to love yak.