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Don’t get the hump over camel milk

Dairy is experiencing some challenges

Consumers are questioning traditional buying habits and milk/ milk products have been under scrutiny. According to UK Government research, milk represented 16.4% of the total UK agricultural output in 2020. This puts the UK in 13th position regarding milk production and sales are worth around £4.4bn. Any consumer shift in demand will have a massive impact industry wide. It’s now happening. Since 1996 there has been a 28% reduction in the number of dairy cows in the UK. EU exports have also decreased post-Brexit. There is a lot going on for sure.

The sales of plant-based milks continue to grow

A Mintel survey from April 2021 demonstrated that the UK spent around £146 million on oat milk during 2020. All types of milk including rice, coconut, almond and soy represented around £394 million whereas cow’s milk is still around £3.2 billion. Since 2009 there has been a 32% increase.

It’s no longer unusual to see people buying coffees with coconut milk

Neither is it odd to see cartons of almond, oat and soya in fridges. But dairy industries globally are fighting back. Interestingly, camel milk may well offer an attractive alternative to cow’s milk, especially for those taking their health needs into consideration. Of course, camel milk has been drunk by nomadic tribes for thousands of years but it’s only recently that commercialisation has been considered and then developed for other markets that have come late to the party.

Camel milk might help those experiencing allergies

Although camels will still need feeding and have an impact on carbon emissions like cows, camel milk is purported to have more health benefits. Those experiencing lactose intolerance, or any allergies associated with dairy, may well feel better swapping to camel milk. This intolerance is actually caused by a lack of the enzyme, lactase, used to digest lactose (a form of sugar) and is quite common among the UK population. Camel milk may just be helpful for this condition.

Diabetics could also be better served by this form of milk. In addition, there are various natural probiotic and immune qualities that children may find beneficial too.

Milk isn’t just used for drinking

It appears in many of our favourite foods and can also be transformed into milk powder that has a variety of uses. Camel milk could be a substitute for other forms of dairy in the production of creams, chocolates and also cosmetics. This year, consumers have had the first opportunity to do a taste test on camel milk chocolate. Perhaps manufacturers will give chocolate squares a more pronounced hump!

There’s nothing new about camel milk

Historically it has been a challenge to penetrate European markets because of the unfamiliarity of the product. Most people in Europe will not have given camels a thought when pouring the white stuff into their morning brew. However, other global markets have traditionally used camel milk. One such company already runs 6000 camels on a farm in Dubai. There is nothing new in this product it’s all just slightly unfamiliar.

Higher prices might need a hard sell

Yet, although other markets see camel milk as a ‘super milk’ it will prove to be more costly when it hits European refrigerators. The reason is that camels produce far less milk than cows, in fact around 2/3 less, and only produce milk in the early lactation period. Therefore, the health benefit narrative will need to be sold to consumers if companies have any chance of overcoming resistance to higher prices.

Weigh up the benefits

In spite of these cost concerns the benefits are considerable and worth further investigation. If you are looking for another natural food source that is rich in nutrients, then camel milk may well be a viable option. Yes, cow’s milk offers many of the staples but camel milk has less saturated fat but more healthier fats and is richer in calcium, iron and potassium alongside both Vitamin B and C. As we become ever more interested in the effect of our foods on health it is worth noting that camel milk offers more long-chain fatty and linoleic acid. These are known to contribute to supporting brain and heart health.

This all sounds very attractive but camel milk is not pasteurised

It is usually drunk in its raw form. This may be a concern for those in various higher risk categories. The milk does contain certain organisms that have been known to cause infections so it may not be suitable for everyone. At times it has been found to contain organisms that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome and brucellosis (Mediterranean fever). These are very infectious infections and pass from one person to another through the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. However, we run the risk of salmonella, e-coli and the Norovirus campylobacter, listeria, Hepatitis A etc. on a daily basis.

The final issue that may well deter some consumers is an ethical one

Camels could end up being shipped around the world and away from their natural habitats. For some the exploitation of yet another animal may not be acceptable. Would you drink camel milk?

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