In recent years various camel milk products are prepared and marketed throughout some parts of the world, i.e. Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, etc. The products like yoghurt, cheese, ice-cream and chocolate made from camel milk are now commercialized in many countries in Asia and Africa and those products are getting their way into the European and American markets very rapidly. In this article some Biological Characteristics of Camel, the Importance of Camel in Different Regions of the World, World Camel Population, Camel Milk Production, Composition of Camel Milk, and the Various Camel Milk Products (Butter, Yoghurt, Cheese, Ice-cream and Chocolate) are studied and discussed.
Some Biological Characteristics of Camel: The average life expectancy of a camel (Scientific Name: Camelus dromedarius) is 40 to 50 years. A fully grown adult camel stands 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at the shoulder and 2.15 m (7 ft 1 in) at the hump. The hump rises about 30 inches (75 cm) out of its body. Camels can run up to 65 km/h in short bursts and sustain speeds of up to 40 km/h (Wikipedia, 2009).
The Importance of Camel in Different Regions of the World: The camel is an important animal component of the fragile desert eco-system. With its unique bio-physiological characteristics, the camel has become an icon of adaptation to challenging ways of living in arid and semi-arid regions (Bikaner, 2008). The proverbial Ship of Desert (in Persian: Safeeneh-e Sahra) earned its epithet on account of its indispensability as a mode of transportation and draught power in desert but the utilities are many and are subject to continuous social and economic changes.
World Camel Population: On the basis of the 1990 yearbook published by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) the camel population in some countries have been reported as follows: Somalia: 6855000, Sudan: 2800000, India: 1450000, Pakistan: 990000, Mauritania: 820000, Kenya: 810000, Chad: 540000, Niger: 420000, Saudi Arabia: 405000, Afghanistan: 265000, Yemen: 144000, United Arab Emirates: 115000, Iraq: 59000, Iran: 27000, Jordan: 15000, Israel: 10000, and Kuwait: 6000.
As Robert Lacey (1982) noted in order to keep the number of camel in some countries like Saudi Arabia, the country imports those unique beasts. They arrive every week or so in the port of Jeddah, peering curiously over the rails of the steamers from Somalia.
Camel Milk Production: Existing data on the milk yield of camels are numerous but highly variable. According to results from several authors, lactation periods vary from 9 to 18 months, with annual milk yields of between 800 and 3600 liters. Mean daily milk production is reported to range from 2 to 6 liters under desert conditions and up to 12 to 20 liters under more intensive breeding systems. These large differences can be explained by the fact that measurements have often been made under local conditions without taking into account local factors that might influence milk production. Furthermore, camel breeds or individual animals probably exist with significantly different milk-producing potential that has not been fully exploited because the selective pressure of humans on the camel has been minimal compared with other domestic animals (Richard and Gerard, 1989).
Composition of Camel Milk: According to Wilson (1984) the range percentages of various nutrients in a sample of camel milk are as follows: Water: 86.30-87.30, Lactose: 3.30-5.80, Fat: 2.90-5.40, Protein: 3.00-3.90, and Ash: 0.60-0.80.
In his article entitled as One Hump or Two, Chris Mercer (2006) noted that, “Camel’s milk, as well as being low in fat, also contains vitamin B, iron and unsaturated fatty acids. Its nutritional value has led to a range of health claims. One small study, released by the Camel Applied Research and Development Network, found camel's milk could help treat Type 1 diabetes”.
Various Camel Milk Products: Camel milk is a staple food of desert nomad tribes and is richer in fat and protein than cow milk. Camel milk cannot be made into butter in the traditional churning method. It can be made if it is soured first, churned, and a clarifying agent added, or if it is churned at 24–25 degree Centigrade (75–76 Fahrenheit), but times will vary greatly in achieving results. The milk can readily be made into yogurt. Butter or yogurt made from camel milk is said to have a very faint greenish tinge. Camel milk is said to have many healthful properties and is used as a medicinal product in India; Bedouin tribes believe that camel milk has great curative powers if the camel’s diet consists of certain plants. In Ethiopia, the milk is considered an aphrodisiac, a substance which excites sexual desire (in Persian: Maadeh Yaa Daaroy-e Moghavey-e Gharaaez-e Jenssi).
Camel milk, until recently, was impossible to make into traditional cheese rennet, a substance used for thickening milk, especially to make cheese. Under the commission of the FAO, Professor J.P. Ramet of the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’ Agronomie et des Industries Alimentaires was able to produce curdling by the addition of calcium phosphate and vegetable rennet. The cheese produced from this process has low levels of cholesterol and lactose. The sale of camel cheese is limited owing to the low yield of cheese from milk and the uncertainty of pasteurization levels for camel milk which makes adherence to dairy import regulations difficult (Wikipedia, 2009).
An Israeli scientist, Professor Reuven Yagil, reportedly developed a camel milk ice cream in 1999. In 2006 Al Ain Dairy Firm declared that it had launched the first camel milk ice cream in the United Arab Emirates, positioning the product as a healthy alternative to other ice cream products (Mercer, 2006).
On 22 July 2009, Martin Van Almsick, the General Manager of Al Nassma Company in Dubai announced that, “The world’s first chocolate made out of camel milk would be all set to go on sale around the world. All chocolates are produced without preservatives or chemical additives with a range of locally popular spices, nuts, honey, which comes from Yemen, and vanilla from Madagascar” (Hindu, 2009). According to the news reported online, “Al Nassma was formally established in October last year and aims to produce 100 tons of premium camel milk chocolate a year. In partnership with Austrian chocolate maker Manner, Al Nassma manufactures the end product at its Dubai facility. With 3000 camels on its Dubai farm, the company sells chocolates through its farm-attached store as well as in luxury hotels and private airlines. The farm is controlled by the Dubai government” (Bookofjoe, 2009).
It should be noted that Al Nassma, the name of the company behind the chocolate, is derived from the Arabic word of Nassam (in Persan: Nasseem) meaning a cool breeze.
Epilogue: A Bedouin is a member of an Arab tribe living in or near the desert, and the Bedouin name of camel is God’s Gift (Lacey, 1982). The corresponding terms for God’s Gift are Ata Allah in Arabic, and Yazdan-Bakhsh in Persian. The new brand chocolate made from camel milk may be considered as one of the most pleasant parts of that gift!
1. Bikaner Website (2008): Online Article on Camel, National Research Center on Camel, Jorbeer, Bikaner (Rajasthan) India.
2. Bookofjoe Website (2009): Online Note on Dubai’s Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate.
3. FAO Publication (1990): Production Yearbook of Food and Agricultural Organization: No 44.
4. Hindu Website (2009): Online News on Camel Milk Chocolate Set to Hit World Markets.
5. Lacey, R. (1982): The Kingdom, ed., HBJ Publishers, New York, USA.
6. Mercer, C. (2006): Online Article on One Hump or Two.
7. Ramet, J. P. (2001): Online Document of the Technology of Making Cheese from Camel Milk.
8. Richard, D. and D. Gerard (1989): La production laitiere des dromadaires Dankali, Rev. Elev. Med. Vet.: 42: 97-103.
9. Saadat Noury, M. (2009): Online Article on Facts about Chocolate.
10. Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2009): Online Note on Camel.
11. Wilson, R.T. (1984): The Camel, ed., London, Longman Group Ltd., 233 pp.