Animals: They were here first
Camels on the Move
The latest food fad is actually old news: camel’s milk. For centuries, nomads have survived on this highly nutritious liquid provided by their hardy traveling companions. Now, modern society has discovered the valuable properties of camel’s milk and have set up commercial dairies from Australia to Dubai to cash in on the trend. At prices ranging from $16 - $40 a pint, they’re cashing in quite nicely.
Aside from the health claims, camel farms are providing other significant opportunities for entrepreneurs. In Australia, wild herds of 300,000 camels roam freely. Here’s an excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Gilad Berman, the former CEO of Australia’s first commercial camel dairy, knows the benefits of camel milk first hand. The dairy in Western Australia milked a herd of feral camels and sold the milk for 15 months. “We had people coming in and buying the milk for diabetes, autism, lactose intolerance and kid’s allergies,” says Berman. “Lactose-intolerant individuals can easily digest camel milk” he adds.
But do the health claims stand up? Dr Kellie Bilinski, a spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, agrees that “camel milk has a substantially higher amount of niacin (Vitamin B3), iron and vitamin C and a similar amount of protein, calcium, fat and lactose to cow’s and goat’s milk.”
“There’s some early research that has shown there are health benefits for individuals with insulin dependent diabetes (by reducing the amount of insulin required to produce glycaemic control), however other early research investigating whether there are any benefits in treating autism, breast cancer and Crohn’s disease has not been as promising.”
Nevertheless demand for camel milk is growing. Lauren Brisbane, chair of the Australian Camel Industry Association, has been working in the industry for eight years. She is in the process of setting up her own camel dairy, with about 30 camels, and is preparing to start supplying to the public in the next couple of months.
In Dubai, the entrepreneurial aspects of camel farming are adding social benefits. Here’s something from the New Agriculturist:
Brainchild of Dr Ulrich Wernery, founder of Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL), the aim of Camelicious is commercialising a product used for centuries by Bedouin people, to combat the high prevalence of diabetes in the local community. Although studies on camel milk's ability to treat the disease have hardly been comprehensive, traditional knowledge has long recognised camel milk's ability to combat diabetes, among a host of other ailments. "People here lived before the oil boom with camels in the desert. They were the toughest people on earth, surviving 55 degrees heat in the shade, only on camel milk and dates," says Dr Ulli. This challenging lifestyle altered completely within one generation when oil was discovered. Now diabetes occurs in 30 per cent of the local population.
After just five years the camel dairy in Dubai is still finding its feet but there is hope that lessons learned can be transferred to other communities and replicated on a smaller scale with less investment. FAO's milk and dairy expert, Anthony Bennet, says that FAO is promoting camels as a means of food security in smallscale farms; one project in Afghanistan has seen daily incomes triple due to camel milk production and local sale. "That's why we are encouraging people, government, communities to look at camel milk and dairy products as one of those pathways out of poverty," explains Bennet. For Camelicious farm manager, Peter Nagy, hi-tech is not the only way: "We have a small training facility", he says, "where we use less sophisticated equipment. For small farmers, what we do there is something they could use also."
The What Took You So Long Foundation film team has travelled to 17 countries documenting the camel milk industry. Above excerpt written by: Philippa Young.
Read how the Amish are developing camel farms in America here.