Camel milk

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Fresh camel milk in Dubai, United Arab Emirates Fresh camel milk (Dubai).jpg
Fresh camel milk in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Camel milk has supported Bedouin, nomad and pastoral cultures since the domestication of camels millennia ago. Herders may for periods survive solely on the milk when taking the camels on long distances to graze in desert and arid environments. The camel dairy farming industry has grown in Australia and the United States, as an environmentally-friendly alternative to cow dairy farming using a species well-adapted to arid regions.


Camel milk has different nutritional characteristics from cow milk, but the proportions of nutrients can be highly variable based on a number of factors, including type and age of camel, climate, what it eats, and milking method. It can be used to make products such as yoghurt and ice cream, but is not so easily turned into butter or cheese.


Desert nomad tribes use camel milk, which can be readily made into yoghurt, as a staple food, [1] and can live for up to a month on nothing but camel milk. [2]


Camel milk production
(whole, fresh) – 2017
Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya
Flag of Mali.svg  Mali
Flag of Ethiopia.svg  Ethiopia
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg  Saudi Arabia
Flag of Niger.svg  Niger
Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations [3]

In 2017, world production of whole, fresh camel milk was 2.85 million tonnes, led by Somalia and Kenya with 64% of the global total (table). Mali and Ethiopia were other significant producers. [3]


After being introduced to Australia in the 1840s to assist with exploration and trade in the harsh interior before being overtaken by modern communications and transport methods, the feral camel population has grown to in excess of 1.2m, the world's largest. Australia's first camel dairies opened in 2014, and the number has been growing ever since, with demand growing both locally and internationally. In 2016 the Australian government reported in 2016 that "the five years to 2021 are expected to see a major increase in Australian camel milk production". Production has grown from 50,000 litres (11,000 imp gal) of camel milk in 2016 to 180,000 litres (40,000 imp gal) per annum in 2019. One farm has grown from three wild camels in 2014 to over 300 in 2019, and exports mostly to Singapore, with shipments of both fresh and powdered product set to start to Thailand and Malaysia. [4]

One litre of pasteurised camel milk retailed for about A$15 (US$10; £8) in Australia in 2019, which was about 12 times more expensive than cow's milk. [4] As of April 2020, Australia has seven camel dairies, which produce meat skincare products in addition to milk and cheese. [5] There was one certified organic commercial camel milk dairy in 2019. [4]

United States

As of 2014 the United States had an imported population of 5,000 camels. The cost of producing camel's milk is considerably higher than that of producing cow's milk. In the United States, female camels are very rare; they mature slowly and can be bred safely only after age four. Their thirteen-month gestation period must conclude in a live birth followed by suckling, else the female camel will stop producing milk. Unlike a dairy cow which is parted from her calf when it is born and then gives milk for six to nine months, a camel can share her milk with the farmer and her calf for 12–18 months. [6]

Milk yields and nutritional value

Both milk yields and the nutritional composition of camel milk are affected by many factors, including "forage quantity and quality, watering frequency, climate, breeding age, parity, milking frequency, calf nursing, milking method (hand or machine milking), health, and reproductive status". [7]


Pakistani and Afghani camels are supposed to produce the highest yields of milk, up to 30 litres per day. The Bactrian camel produces 5 litres per day and the dromedary produces an average of 20 litres per day. [1] Intensive breeding of cows has created animals that can produce 40 litres per day in ideal conditions. Camels, with their ability to go 21 days without drinking water, and produce milk even when feeding on low-quality fodder, are a sustainable option for food security in difficult environments. [8]

Nutritional value

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), camel milk contains 3% fat. [9] However, it is reported in the literature that the proportion of fat in the milk varies from country to country and region to region, and is also dependent upon diet, level of hydration of the animal, and type of camel. In a detailed report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1982, a table shows fat content varying from as low as 1.1% (in arid areas of Israel) to 5.5% (Ethiopia). [10] A 2015 systematic review reports the fat content of dromedary milk as between 1.2% and 6.4%. [11]

Camel farmers may provide a degree of control over factors affecting nutritional content of the milk produced by their camels. Producers of camel milk in Australia state that their products have lower fat and lower lactose than cow's milk. [12] [13]

Camel milk products

Camel milk can readily be made into yogurt, but can only be made into butter if it is soured first, churned, and a clarifying agent is then added. [1]

Cheese from camel milk is more difficult to make than cheese from the milk of other dairy animals. [14] In camel-herding communities, camel milk cheeses use spontaneous fermentation or lactic fermentation to achieve a sour curd; in camel farms in Sudan, the Rashaida tribe use this method to store surplus milk in the rainy season, pulverising the dried curds and adding water for consumption in the dry season, and in Mongolia, camel milk is consumed as a product at various stages of the curd-making process.[ citation needed ] However, the milk does not coagulate easily and bovine rennet fails to coagulate the milk effectively. [15] Developing less wasteful uses of the milk, the FAO commissioned Professor J.P. Ramet of the École Nationale Supérieure d'Agronomie et des Industries Alimentaires (ENSAIA), who was able to produce curdling by the addition of calcium phosphate and vegetable rennet in the 1990s. [16] The cheese produced from this process has low levels of cholesterol and is easy to digest, even for the lactose intolerant. [17] [18] The European-style cheese, marketed under the name Caravane, was created through collaboration between Mauritanian camel milk dairy Tiviski, the FAO, and Ramet. It is claimed to be the only camel milk cheese in the world. [19]

Camel milk can also be made into ice cream. [20] [21]

In Central Asia, a drink called chal or shubat is made from fermented camel milk. [22]

Related Research Articles

Camel Genus of mammals

A camel is an even-toed ungulate in the genus Camelus that bears distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back. Camels have long been domesticated and, as livestock, they provide food and textiles. Camels are working animals especially suited to their desert habitat and are a vital means of transport for passengers and cargo. There are three surviving species of camel. The one-humped dromedary makes up 94% of the world's camel population, and the two-humped Bactrian camel makes up 6%. The Wild Bactrian camel is a separate species and is now critically endangered.

Dairy product Food produced from or containing the milk of mammals

Dairy products or milk products are a type of food produced from or containing the milk of mammals, most commonly cattle, water buffaloes, goats, sheep, and camels. Dairy products include food items such as yogurt, cheese and butter. A facility that produces dairy products is known as a dairy, or dairy factory. Dairy products are consumed worldwide, with the exception of most of East and Southeast Asia and parts of central Africa.

Milk white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals

Milk is a nutrient-rich liquid food produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals, including breastfed human infants before they are able to digest solid food. Early-lactation milk is called colostrum, which contains antibodies that strengthen the immune system and thus reduces the risk of many diseases. It holds many other nutrients, including protein and lactose. Interspecies consumption of milk is not uncommon, particularly among humans, many of whom consume the milk of other mammals.

Mozzarella Type of semi-soft Italian cheese

Mozzarella is a traditionally southern Italian cheese made from Italian buffalo's milk by the pasta filata method.

Pizza cheese

Pizza cheese encompasses several varieties and types of cheeses and dairy products that are designed and manufactured for use specifically on pizza. These include processed and modified cheese such as mozzarella-like processed cheeses and mozzarella variants. The term can also refer to any type of cheese suitable for use on pizza. The most popular cheeses used in the preparation of pizza are mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and Parmesan. Emmental, Romano and ricotta are often used as toppings, and processed pizza cheeses manufactured specifically for pizza are mass-produced. Some mass-produced pizza cheeses are frozen after manufacturing and shipped frozen.

Dairy Organization that processes milk

A dairy is a business enterprise established for the harvesting or processing of animal milk – mostly from cows or buffaloes, but also from goats, sheep, horses, or camels – for human consumption. A dairy is typically located on a dedicated dairy farm or in a section of a multi-purpose farm that is concerned with the harvesting of milk.

Whey Liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a byproduct of the manufacture of cheese or casein and has several commercial uses. Sweet whey is a byproduct resulting from the manufacture of rennet types of hard cheese, like cheddar or Swiss cheese. Acid whey is a byproduct brought out during the making of acid types of dairy products, such as cottage cheese or strained yogurt.

Cottage cheese Type of cheese

Cottage cheese is a fresh cheese curd product with a mild flavor. It is also known as curds and whey. It is not aged. It is made by draining the cheese, as opposed to pressing it to make Paneer—retaining some of the whey, keeping the curds loose. An important step in the manufacturing process distinguishing cottage cheese from other fresh cheeses is the adding of a "dressing" to the curd grains, usually cream, which is largely responsible for the taste of the product.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Type of hard Italian cheese

Parmigiano-Reggiano is an Italian hard, granular cheese produced from cow's milk and aged at least 12 months.

Dromedary Largest living camelid in the world

The dromedary, also called the Arabian camel, is a large even-toed ungulate, of the genus Camelus, with one hump on its back.

Dairy farming

Dairy farming is a class of agriculture for long-term production of milk, which is processed for eventual sale of a dairy product.


Cheesemaking is the craft of making cheese. The production of cheese, like many other food preservation processes, allows the nutritional and economic value of a food material, in this case milk, to be preserved in concentrated form. Cheesemaking allows the production of the cheese with diverse flavors and consistencies.

Dairy cattle

Dairy cattle are female cattle bred for the ability to produce large quantities of milk, from which dairy products are made. Dairy cows generally are of the species Bos taurus.

Butterfat or milkfat is the fatty portion of milk. Milk and cream are often sold according to the amount of butterfat they contain.

Cheese Dairy product created by coagulating the milk protein casein

Cheese is a dairy product, derived from milk and produced in wide ranges of flavors, textures and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. During production, the milk is usually acidified and the enzymes of rennet are added to cause the milk proteins (casein) to coagulate. The solids (curd) are separated from the liquid (whey) and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have aromatic molds on the rind, the outer layer, or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Chhena Type of cheese curds originating in India

Chhena or sana are curds or cheese curds, originating from the Indian subcontinent, made from water buffalo or regular cow milk by adding food acids such as lemon juice and calcium lactate instead of rennet and straining the whey through filtration.

Goat farming Raising and breeding of domestic goats

Goat farming involves the raising and breeding of domestic goats as a branch of animal husbandry. People farm goats principally for their meat, milk, fibre and skins.

Cellular agriculture focuses on the production of agriculture products from cell cultures using a combination of biotechnology, tissue engineering, molecular biology, and synthetic biology to create and design new methods of producing proteins, fats, and tissues that would otherwise come from traditional agriculture. Most of the industry is focused on animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs, produced in cell culture rather than raising and slaughtering farmed livestock. The most well known cellular agriculture concept is cultured meat.

Dairy in India Dairy in India

Dairy plays a significant part in numerous aspects of Indian society, including cuisine, religion, culture, and the economy.


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Further reading