The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is proposing to amend regulations to define yak as an “exotic animal.” This change would make yak eligible for voluntary inspections and the USDA voluntary mark of inspection.

Exotic animal products are not amenable to mandatory inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and therefore may not bear the round USDA mark of inspection.

Meat from an exotic animal may be used as an ingredient in a product that contains meat or poultry from an amenable species and is eligible to bear round marks of inspection, provided that:

  • the meat and poultry products are produced in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements and the exotic species ingredient is compliant with the requirements.
  • subject to verification by inspection personnel
  • the meat and poultry products meet the criteria for amenable products as stated under the “Amenability” definition in the FSIS Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book
    • Meat or poultry product(s) are defined as food product(s) containing 2 percent cooked or more than 3 percent raw amenable meat or poultry.
    • Meat from an exotic species may contribute as much as 98 percent  of the content of a product composed of cooked amenable species or kind
    • Meat from an exotic species may contribute up to 97 percent of the content of a product composed of raw amenable species or kind.

Exotic animals must be slaughtered and processed under a voluntary reimbursable service as specified to be eligible to bear a triangular mark of inspection.

Some other species defined by the USDA FSIS as “exotic animals” include reindeer, elk, deer, antelope and water buffalo or bison.

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