Kyle and Wendy Jorgensen have developed a unique niche for their organic hobby farm business.
Consumers looking for grass-fed Yak meat — and perhaps some other healthy food products and catchy craft items — can find them at Yak’s N Thing’s, E10950 Lundt Rd., Clintonville.
“We bought the farm four years ago and it already had 35 acres with eight-foot high fencing,” Kyle said . “Though both Wendy and I work full-time, we didn’t want to waste the acreage or the two small ponds in the pasture area. We wanted to start a low-maintenance hobby farm, and the setting here was perfect.”
The decision to raise Yaks came after much thought, research, investigation-and a joke from one of their children.
“The previous owners had raised buffalo. We considered keeping it a buffalo farm, but ultimately let them go. We were considering raising many different types of bovines,” Kyle explained. “Then, our son jokingly asked, ‘Why not Yaks?’ So we did some studying and wound up deciding to raise Yaks.”
Yaks have some qualities attributed to cows, horses, and rams. They are fast runners and can jump at least four feet high on a dead run. Yaks live for about 25 years, and the males can grow to about 1,600 pounds. Their horns are similar to Texas Longhorns, and can span more than 40 inches. Females grow to about 900 pounds and have horns that grow up and back rather than out to the sides.
“Yaks are built somewhat like a buffalo,” commented Wendy. “They have a very large chest and shoulders and are smaller in the hindquarters. They’re slower growing than other bovines, but they only eat about 1/3 as much as cows eat. Six pounds of food per day is enough for them.”
“We feed them grass hay during the winter, and their natural instincts are to search for food in the pasture as well,” Kyle stated. “We don’t want to try to change their instincts, and we don’t give them any antibiotics or hormones.”
The Jorgensens state that there are about 4,000 Yaks in North America, with most of them located farther west. Originally from the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet and Mongolia, Yaks are very disease resistant. They are accustomed to cold weather climates, which make them compatible with harsh Wisconsin winters.
“They’re multi-use animals,” Wendy explained. “The meat is really healthy, but there are other advantages as well. We comb them for hair fibers in the spring, and the fibers can then be spun into yarn. Though it’s a time-consuming process, we can get about five pounds of hair fibers from each Yak.” Yak fiber is comparable to cashmere or angora. It is the downy undercoat that sheds off during the spring and can be combed out, collected and processed. The courser outer hair or ‘guard hair’ can be used to weave ropes and belts. The costume for popular Star Wars character “Chewbacca” was made with Yak hair.
The Jorgensens have 16 Yaks right now, and are licensed and registered to sell Yak meat from their home. They also sell Yak meat to The Tree Stand in New London, where customers can try a Yak burger during their next visit.
“Our Yak meat is grass-fed, free range, and hormone and antibiotic free,” said the Jorgensens. “It has a very distinct beef flavor that can compare to other grass-fed beef, but is unique and has its own flavor. The meat is not marbled with fat-it’s very lean.”
Yak meat is naturally low in cholesterol and calories-even lower than skinless chicken breast. Yak is high in protein and omega 3 fats-more than most fish.
“Our meat is dry-aged to concentrate the flavor and produce meat that is superb in taste and texture,” said the Jorgensens. “It’s lean, with a delicious, delicate, beef-like flavor. Yak is never gamey or greasy. Yak is the answer if you crave a nice juicy steak, but you are watching your weight or cholesterol.”
Some Yak meats available for purchase at Yak’s N Thing’s include hamburger patties, hamburger by the pound, rump roast, chuck roast, sirloin tip roast, English roast, porter house steaks, sirloin steaks, ribeye steaks, t-bone steaks, stew meat, and liver. Small, medium and large sample packs are also available for purchase. All weights are approximate, and types of cut are based on availability.
“Yak meat should be cooked slowly. Roasts and stew meat is best when cooked in a crock pot. Steaks and burgers are best when cooked rare or medium-rare,” explained the Jorgensens. “The meat should never be overcooked or microwaved.”
Fresh organic fruits and vegetables can also be purchased in season, along with free-range chicken eggs, homemade soaps, and craft items.
“We try to make everything organic and we’re working to keep the Yaks as purebred as possible,” Wendy said. “For the most part, it’s been fun. We were looking for an adventure, and working with the Yaks has proven to be an interesting, unique challenge.”
“We see our business growing bigger down the road,” Kyle said. “We already do some farmers markets and are looking at getting involved in some health food areas. Many people just want to try something unique and different.”
Yak’s N Thing’s can be reached by phone at 715-823-6023 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The business is located at E10950 Lundt Rd., Clintonville, WI 54929, and more information can be found at www.yaksnthings.com. To learn more about Yak meat, visit www.aboutyaks.com.