Always in the quest to find the magic bullet of health, some U.S. consumers are turning to it as the latest answer to better health. Some are going so far as touting it as the new “super food.” “Trending” is another way to describe it.
According to FSN
Its rise in popularity can be attributed to the perceived health benefits of camel milk. And because it doesn’t contain certain proteins that cause milk allergies, people who can’t drink cows milk can sometimes drink camel milk without having digestive problems.
According to the Australian Camel Industry Association, camel milk has five times the vitamin C and 10 times the iron compared to cow’s milk.
In a study of the chemical composition and nutritional quality of camel’s milk, researchers found levels of sodium, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, niacin and Vitamin C were higher than in cows milk, while levels of thiamin, riboflavin, folacin, vitamin Bt12, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, lysine and tryptophan were relatively lower than those of cow milk.
A report on FoodSafetyHelpline says camel milk is low in fat but has a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids. In addition, components like long chain immunoglobulins are found in the milk, which some people say helps boost immunity in those who drink it.
“From all the data presented it is clear that the camel produces a nutritious milk for human consumption,” according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FOA).
However, the FOA data does not show a difference between camels milk and cows milk in terms of specific health claims by proponents.
Federal law in the United States prohibits food producers, including milk producers, from making medical claims about their products. It is also against the law for producers to disseminate consumer testimonials about specific health benefits of the products. Such claims move products out of the food category and into the drug category of the Food and Drug Administration’s jurisdiction.
Producers seeking FDA approval for products claimed to have specific medical or health benefits must prove those claims with research and testing data that has been peer reviewed and met other requirements to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Where can I buy it?
For the most part, camel milk is sold online in the United States, delivered to customers frozen via Fed Ex. However, in some cases it’s distributed direct to the customer. And some specialty stores sell it.
In California, it’s sold at nine Lassens stores and the marketing director said people can special order it at stores that don’t carry it.
A google search will lead a consumer to an array additional sources.
What does it taste like?
Descriptions about its taste vary. Some say camel milk is sweet and delicious. Others say it tastes good but has a hint of salty flavor. Others say you start with just a shot glass to get used to it and then proceed to the point where you can drink all you want. Others say it tastes horrible. And still others say it tastes like milk, adding that’s because it is milk.
Of course, when it comes to any kind of milk, a lot of the taste depends on what the animal is eating and how it’s cared for. And also, taste can be impacted by how sanitary the milking operation, processing and storage facilities are.
In addition to raw, pasteurized and powdered forms, camel milk is also used to make products such asa dietary fat referred to as hump fat, fermented kefir, soap, lip balm, lotions, bath soaps, facial washes, face masques and bath bombs.
Supply and demand in the U.S.
The supply in the United States is limited for a variety of reasons: As a starter, it’s not something the U.S. consumer if familiar with. Then, too, there aren’t many camel dairies in the country, and those, for the most part, are small — very small. One in Ohio has only two camels.
Price also enters into the picture. Frozen camel milk is generally going for about $8 per pint, far more than $3.50 for a gallon (8 pints) of whole cow’s milk. That’s not surprising considering that a camel will produce about only about 2 gallons a day compared with 8 to 12 gallons a day that a daily cow produces.
Some people conjecture that camel milk hasn’t garnered much attention in the United States because camels are considered animals from “under-developed countries.”
However, an earlier form of the camel used to live in the American West, Canada and South America. For unknown reasons, it became extinct more than 10,000 years ago. Some scientists say the animals migrated across the land bridge to Asia when the continents were joined.
Is camel milk legal in the United States?
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that camel milk could be sold in the United States. But for sales to be legal, they must comply with the same state licensing requirements as other dairies in their state, with all of the necessary food safety and health standards in place.
For the most part, those standards require milk to be pasteurized, which involves heating it to 166 degrees F for 15 seconds, according to public health officials. Pasteurization kills viruses, parasites and bacterial pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
These pathogens can cause serious illnesses, among them kidney failure and even death. High risk groups more likely to develop life-threatening illnesses are young children, pregnant women, old people, and other people with compromised immune systems, among them are cancer patients, HIV-positive patients, and transplant recipients.
Raw milk, regardless of the animal
On a national level, the FDA prohibits the distribution or sale of raw milk — milk that hasn’t been pasteurized — across state lines.
As of April 2016, 13 states allow raw milk to be sold in stores as long as it meets state standards. Seventeen states allow raw milk sales on the farms where it was produced — again, as long as it meets state standards — and eight states allow acquisition of raw milk only through a herdsman-share agreement. Under that sort of arrangement, which is often referred to a “loophole” by public health officials, people pay for shares of an animal or herd and therefore aren’t considered to be buying the milk. Overall, 20 states prohibit the sale of raw milk.
Although raw camel milk is advertised online, including on Amazon.com, that doesn’t mean it can be sent out to anyone who orders it. Because each state has its own regulations on how raw milk can be sold and distributed, customers need to check their own states’ regulations before ordering.
Meet three U.S. camel dairy farmers
Camelot Dairy: As the owner of a Colorado dairy with 130 cows, Kyle Hendrix was plenty busy. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t worried about the future. He was beginning to realize that if you aren’t shipping out huge quantities milk, “you’re a nobody.”
“The guys here who are milking 2,000 cows, they’re considered small,” he said. “The business has become a vicious cycle.”
Hendrix had already shown an independent streak when he left a multi-generation family beef cattle business and started a dairy farm. So it’s not all that surprising that he was open to trying something new.
That “something new” turned out to be a camel dairy farm, which he aptly named Camelot Dairy. As he tells it, it was all a matter of happenstance.
At the Camelot Dairy in Colorado, Kyle Hendrix has a herd of 100 camels. He said many of his customers are from Somalia, where camel milk is routinely consumed. Photo courtesy of Camelot Dairy
It was the Christmas season, and someone in the area had brought in some camels for a nativity scene. That sparked his interest, enough so that he visited a man in Oklahoma who had been raising camels for 20 years. He was quickly sold on the idea of getting some for his farm.
“It was so cool to see a herd of camels,” he said.
His wife, parents and neighbors thought he was crazy when he started the camel dairy. Back then, in 2011, he had three cows, a bull and a calf.