Camel milk production in Australia grows exponentially. Only three years ago, the annual production rested at 50,000 liters of camel milk, and 2019 has brought the number to 180,000 liters.
Similar in consistency and color, camel milk only has a saltier nuance compared to milk coming from cows. It does not fall behind in nutritional value compared to cow’s milk either. On the contrary; it has more calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and B. Still, for its more extensive use, there is a lot of research waiting to be done. This is necessary, especially for people who do not consume it as part of their regular diet. Plus, in comparison to cow’s milk, camel milk is 12 times more costly in the current circumstances.
Farmers are encouraged to breed camels, and by meeting the standards, they are presented with organic commercial certificates. The owner of QCamel, the only certified organic Australian brand for the time being, Lauren Brisbane, cites the proverbial secret ingredient — love, to be at the heart of their success. She talks about camels as if they were members of their family rather than means for milk production.
Camels are not native animals in Australia; they originate from North America. To escape extinction, like horses, they moved across the Bering land bridge to Asia, going opposite from the threatening human migrations’ direction. In time, they spread across the globe. Most of them are domesticated, but feral populations have been preserved as well, and the largest one inhabits Australia (more than 1.2 million). Initially, they were transported to the continent around the middle of the 19th century to be used in expeditions.
Between the three remaining species of camel, there is a difference when it comes to milk production. The best one is the dromedary (Arabian camel, one-humped, forming around 95% of the global population). In Australia, there are two other species — the tamed two-humped Bactrian camel, and the particularly important wild camel, which is considered endangered elsewhere.
The Williams, Megan and Chris, have set up a farm in northern Victoria in 2014 starting with only three wild camels, which needed to be trained to allow people to milk them. Now their business (The Camel Milk Co Australia) has grown two times in five years, with a 300-camels herd and 60 of them being actively milked.
Daily, the farm can produce six liters of milk per camel. Two liters per camel are currently being sent to Singapore with prospects of including Thailand, Malaysia, and later on, China and the U.S. in the business address book for shipments (both as fresh, mainly pasteurized, and as dried to powder). Camel milk and its products from Australia are already being exported to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.
Megan Williams mentions one significant advantage of Australian camels. Unlike their co-members of the same biological genus living in the Middle East, they pose no threat for those in the mood for sipping their dairy. The raw milk of the camels infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus can quickly spread the virus.
Due to this growing interest, there are more programs that spur milk production: the making of cheese, chocolate, and development of skincare products.