At 24 yuan (£2) for a small 250ml carton, Feifan – meaning ‘uncommonly good’ – costs several times as much as cow’s milk. ‘It’s very natural, green, pure and high-quality. That’s our big selling point – we aim at the high-end market,’ said Ding Pengcheng of the Treasure of the Plateau Yak Milk Company. Over the next three years, the firm is to spend millions to crack the domestic and international markets, with the help of state investment. Yaks produce fewer than 300 litres of milk a year, while cows yield 35 times as much. The firm pays Tibetan farmers 16 yuan or more per litre; eight times the price of standard milk.
The China Nutrition Society, a Ministry of Health-backed research institute, claims the amino acids, calcium, and vitamin A in yak milk are considerably higher than in cow’s milk. Its appeal depends as much on the mystique of its origins as its nutritional qualities. Feifan is undergoing extra safety checks because of China’s recent milk contamination scandal. Yet in the long run such concerns could boost the desire for products that combine modern hygiene with unsullied, back-to-the-land imagery.