02/26/2015 06:38 EST | Updated 04/29/2015 05:59 EDT

Yak-Cross Beef: Alberta Rancher Looks To Raise Profile Of Unusual Meat

Brown tibetan yak eating grass in a pasture at Himalaya mountains
Natallia Yaumenenka via Getty Images
Brown tibetan yak eating grass in a pasture at Himalaya mountains
A rancher near Pincher Creek is raising an unusual breed of beef that he says not only tastes delicious but also has several health benefits.

Russ Friesen started breeding his cattle with Tibetan yaks — known as yak-cross beef or dzo — a few years ago.

The family, which owns Springridge Ranch, refers to the meat the “cattle-yak of beef.”

Friesen, whose family had previously raised buffalo in Saskatchewan, was looking for cattle with a better hair coat that could tolerate Alberta winters.

He had heard about successful experiments at the University of Saskatchewan, and has since learned the yak is a hearty and sure footed enough to withstand Alberta’s long, cold winters. 

People afraid to try something new

But yak-cross beef is a bit of a hard sell because some people are reluctant to try something new, Friesen says. In 2011, the beef got a boost when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were served the meat during a royal visit to Ottawa.

Friesen says the meat when cooked is tender, has a slightly sweet but delicate flavour, and has lower cholesterol and high levels of essential fatty acids. It is grass-fed, growth-hormone free and pasture raised. The cost is slightly higher than regular beef.

Friesen is just one of few breeders in Alberta, but most of the beef is raised in the United States.

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