World Milk Day, a toast to Camel Milk

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World Milk Day, June 1. The 20th World Milk Day is celebrated by a coalition of producers, consumers and experts from 35 countries with camel milk. A toast to this emblem of resilience, human health and animal welfare. And also in the first year of operation of the research and development project
Camel Milk
, under the banner of PRIMA(Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area). (1)

Camel milk, production and consumption on the rise

Global camel milk production is estimated at about 5-6 million tons per year. Seventy percent of production is absorbed by domestic consumption–by camel owners and their families–but without reaching the market (or being registered, for the most part). The world market for dairy products derived from this supply chain is estimated at US$ 10.2 billion (2019, 2). With a forecast of more than 10 percent growth in the decade ahead, according to my friend Bernard Faye, veterinarian and president of the International Society of Camelid Research and Development (ISOCARD).

Camels are better adapted than cows to climate change and are built to survive for weeks without water in the harsh hinterland, but they produce vitamin-rich milk that is valuable for the immune system and tastes good, which can be consumed even by people with lactose intolerance’ (Jeff Flood, nutritionist and CEO of Summer Land Camels, Queensland, Australia).

The growing popularity of camel milk (LC) in international markets is related to its nutritional properties (distinctive with regard to calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, vitamins C, A, B group, and folic acid contents). 250 mL/day of LC can provide a good portion of the minimum daily requirement of macro- and micronutrients needed by an adult individual. (3)
Added to which are the health benefits that have always been known to rural communities in the producing countries, which in recent years have received validation from in vitro and in vivo scientific research.

A significant increase in interest in camel milk ‘for health reasons’ is also seen in India, explains Hanwant Singh Rathore. The co-founder of Camel Charisma, a company that markets camel milk produced by Raika nomads in Rajasthan, reports in truth that ‘most of our customers are parents of autistic children, but camel milk is also becoming known as a traditional Rajasthan health food.’

Unique health benefits

The scientific literature highlights a number of favorable attributes of camel milk (LC). The scientific review coordinated by Professor Roberto Miniero, former full professor of pediatrics at Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro, was the subject of a recent update. It specifically refers to the following virtues:

– digestibility, due to the lower volume of lipid globules, comparing with those of cow’s milk (LV),

– tolerability by people intolerant to cow’s milk, due to the absence of β-lactoglobulin (a common feature of human milk),

– Presence of active peptides with anti-infective (antibacterial and antifungal), anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant, and anti-hypertensive actions,

– appreciable ability to prevent the onset of diabetes and contribute, to a significant extent, to the treatment of diabetes,

– antioxidant properties also prominent in significantly decreasing the CARS(Childhood Autism Rating Scale) index and other indices that assess clinical autism,

– Positive effects on the gut microbiome and immune system. (3)


‘Parents of children with autism remain a key and growing market as studies show that milk is safe and effective and can lead to behavioral and medical improvements’
(Christina Adams, author of numerous scientific publications on the topic as well as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Camel Science).

Nutritionally, the LC notes:

– high biological value of protein, which is distinguished from other milks by a higher content of essential (arginine, isoleucine, methionine and phenylalanine) and nonessential (cysteine, glutamic acid, proline alanine, valine) amino acids. Half a liter of LC per day can meet the amino acid requirements of an adult individual, according to researchers,

– appreciable average values of unsaturated fatty acids (43%) and linoleic acid.

‘The fatty acids in camel milk are preferable to those in cow’s milk for cardiovascular health due to the higher proportion of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. And it is the best alternative to breast milk, useful even for babies with severe food allergies or eczema’ (Prof. Tahereh Mohammadabadi, Khuzestan Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University, Iran).

Global market growing

Middle East and Africa express more than 60 percent of the sector’s animal husbandry. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest market, with an average per capita consumption of 33 liters/year. That it is also prominent in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya on the African continent. Consumption is also expected to grow rapidly in North America because of the endemic prevalence of diabetes and the opportunity to control blood sugar levels through regular intake of camel milk.

The dairy industry in the camel supply chain is well organized in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), n particular in Dubai, the only non-European country currently allowed to export such products to the European Union. As well as in Saudi Arabia and Mauritania. Moreover, production is also being developed in other countries, thanks in part to the EU Camel Milk research project involving operators and universities in Algeria, Turkey and Spain (Canary Islands)-where it also boasts a centuries-old tradition-as well as in France. (4)

Climate change and resilience, the age of the camel

‘The camel has been saving human beings for generations in the desert. In arid areas with hot weather over 45°C, we see cows suffer because they need 8-10 times more water than camels to produce 1 liter of milk’ (dr. Abdul RaziqKakar, specialist in dairy production from camel milk, UAE and Pakistan, blogger on Camels4All).

Over the past 50 years, camelids (camels and dromedaries) have been the second fastest growing herbivorous livestock in the world, after the buffalo. Registering significant growth in the last decade, in Africa (+4.5%/year in. FAOStat data) and the Middle East. Even in countries historically devoid of camelids, such as Uganda and Tanzania. The resilience of these animals is unimaginable, in climates as harsh as in hot climates and in drought conditions, partly due to their ability to move over thorny bushes and shrubs inaccessible to most farm animals. (5)

‘The breeding tradition [dei cammelli] is well established in many countries around the world [49, ed.] We therefore need to conduct further scientific research on the camel, in general, and its milk in particular’ (Mohammed Bengoumi, camelid expert, FAO, Tunisia).

Food security, African perspectives

A distinguishing characteristic of camelids is their habit of living in the desert, in extreme climatic conditions, with long fasts of food and water. The camel can last without water for up to forty days, to the point of losing 30 percent of body mass and 50 percent of the water stored in the body. And it is capable of producing milk even under unfavorable nutritional conditions, unlike other dairy animals. (3)

Food security -that is, thesupply of nutritious and safe food to the people of the planet-must therefore also come through support for nomadic communities that raise camels by centuries-old tradition.

‘Supporting decentralized camelfarming through innovative models is a great opportunity to reduce poverty and improve food security in some of the poorest parts of the world’ (Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, project coordinator of the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development).

‘The camel milk industry is undervalued, but it could compete with other foreign exchange investments already operating in Kenya. Eighty-nine percent of the country is classified as arid or semi-arid land, and drought is recurrent. It is therefore logical that many farmers turn from cows to camels, even in southern Kenya’ (dr. James Chomba Njanja, vice president of the Kenya Camel Association).

Camel Milk, the Mediterranean research project


Camel milk
is a 36-month research project. Involves 14 research units in 7 countries including in Italy, thanks to our team at FARE, a division of Wiise S.r.l. benefit company. The project aims to strengthen the camel milk supply chain on the various levels of production, processing and consumption. By means of technical support to some small and medium-sized enterprises in the sector, on different shores of the Mediterranean.

The activities take the form of:

– assisting non-European operators to align production with EU food safety and animal welfare standards, from stable to table,

– Developing technologies and business strategies, to make safe food distribution possible. Pasteurized milk, fermented milks (for additional probiotic intake), cheese. (4)

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. Camel Milk, superfood. Mediterranean research project. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.6.19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/camel-milk-superfood-progetto-di-ricerca-mediterranea

(2) Grand View Research Inc. (2020). Camel milk products, market analysis

(3) Roberto Miniero, Ali Mohamed Mahadi, Giuseppe Antonio Mazza, Laura Giancotti, Valentina Talarico. Can camel milk have a role in 21st century medicine? Review of the literature. Food & Med Supplements. 4.10.19, https://www.integratorifoodmed.it/puo-il-latte-di-cammella-avere-un-ruolo-nella-medicina-del-xxi-secolo-revisione-della-letteratura/

(4) Dario Dongo. Camelmilk project: promoting the production and demand of camel milk in the Mediterranean basin. PRIMA Observatory, https://primaobservatory.unisi.it/en/projects/camelmilk-boost-the-production-processing-and-consumption-of-camel-milk-in-the-mediterranean-basin

(5) Dario Dongo. Australia, criminal order to exterminate camels. Égalité. 8.1.20, https://www.egalite.org/australia-criminale-lordine-di-sterminio-di-cammelli/

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.