Does camel milk taste like cow milk?
I was driving past Barbur World Foods, when the electronic billboard made me hit the brakes – “Camel Milk Now Available”. I’m surprised there haven’t been car accidents in front of the store.
I’ve seen camel milk while living in the Mediterranean where it is considered more of a special occasion beverage, but never in the US, so of course I had to check it out. Once I posted on our Instagram, people asked what it tastes like.
A few tidbits that might be of interest before I get to my taste test results:
- I purchased Desert Farms Camel Milk, which is produced in the midwest by Amish and other family farms. All of their camels are pasture-raised on a natural diet.
- It used to be illegal to sell camel milk here.
- According to Wikipedia.org, there are about 5,000 camels in the USA.
- “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 twelve to eighteen months.”
- “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. 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.” Armed with this information, you are sure to be a hit at your next party.
- “Camel milk has a high vitamin and mineral content and immunoglobulin content. Camel milk is three times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk and 10 times higher in iron. It is also high in unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins but lower in vitamin A and B2 (than cow milk). The composition of camel milk depends on its feed and species: Bactrian milk has a higher fat content than dromedary milk. Camel milk is lower in lactose than cow’s milk. However, levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc are higher than in cow’s milk.”
- You can get it at World Foods, some Whole Foods, and in raw, frozen form at The People’s Co-op.
- It’s expensive – about $18 for a carton. From the website, “Why is camel milk so expensive? Camels don’t give lots of milk, but what they do give is precious. They only give milk when they have a baby and lactation lasts from 10 months to over a year. They have long pregnancies, and it’s not easy to breed them, so while the US learns more about camel breeding, we’re thankful to get what we do. Milking camels (cows) produce around 5-6 liters or so a day (imagine three 2-liter bottles of soda). So it takes a whole farm, lots of feed and pasture, veterinary care, and human hands to care for and milk these ladies. If you saw how much labor and expense goes into it, you’d be surprised it’s not more costly. Since many of our customers are parents, we won’t charge more than we think is reasonable.”
So, to the taste test. According to the website, “It tastes just like milk”. I’d agree with that… sort of. I found it slightly sweet, slightly salty, musky and a bit more grassy than regular milk. Like wine, I suspect that terroir plays a part in each batch, and since it is produced by just a few camels at each farm and processed on site, I am assuming there will be more of a variation from batch to batch than you might expect.
Would I buy it again? Probably not, but I’m not a huge fan of milk to start with unless it is incorporated into some sort of pastry cream. In that form, I’ll eat anything.
Have you taken the 2017 Reader Restaurant Survey? You’ll find it here.