Why you should care

There’s more to milk than cow or soy. It’s good for you, too, but watch your wallet.

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Somalis love it, Saudis see it as the ultimate treat and the fanciest coffee shops in Dubai are raving about it. We’re talking about camel milk.

Bedouins’ drink of choice is now available in the U.S. thanks to Desert Farms, a company that is selling and marketing it as a wholesome and nutrient-packed alternative to conventional cow’s milk.

Under the slogan “Make everyday a hump day,” this Santa-Monica based startup launched in January, determined to turn camel milk into America’s next liquid super food.

How does it taste? It differs depending on the local camel diet, but OZY taste-tester Rob Carpenter says:

“It has a very grainy taste, a thin texture, a little bit nutty, and slightly sweet. But I could not say it tasted that different from standard cows milk except for its thinner consistency and slight but dangerous aftertaste. Overall very much worth trying!”

The milk is sold frozen, because it’s unpasteurized. It needs to thaw before drinking.

Man sitting on street with bottles of milk in front of him

A Bedouin selling camel milk in Yemeni City

Source Corbis

While the product is a novelty for most western countries, it’s got a long history in other corners of the world.

“Camel milk has been used for centuries in the Middle East by nomads and Bedouins, and they swore by it. That’s why people have faith in it — it’s a historical product,” explains Walid Abdul-Wahab, Desert Farms’ founder.

Although Desert Farms is based in California, it outsources the milk production to small-scale farms in the Midwest, most of them owned by Amish families that raise the camels in GMO-free pastures.

The image of Amish raising camels for milk might be novel enough to get some to try it but, besides this peculiarity, camel milk also happens to be good for you. The white nectar is 50 percent lower in fat than cow milk, three times as rich in Vitamin C and also contains phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1, according to Abdul-Wahab.

According to Abdul-Wahab, another 10 percent has been bought by diabetics because camel milk contains more insulin than cow milk. The rest has gone mostly to health conscious people, Saudis or Somalis. What’s more, camel milk is said to improve motor functioning on children with autism, and Abdul-Wahab says that about 80 percent of Desert Farms’ sales have been to parents of children with autism.

It’s not a cheap treat. A pint of raw or pasteurized milk costs $16 to $19 online or at Whole Foods stores in Northern California. The price goes up to $40 for a bottle of frozen colostrum: a thicker, yellower type of milk collected within 24 hours after giving birth, which Desert Farms says is the “perfect food” because it contains “immune and growth factors.”

The image of Amish raising camels for milk might be novel enough to get some to try it…

Prices are unlikely to come down anytime soon. There’s just one camel for every 18,000 cows in the U.S., and milking camels is a very hands-on and labor-intensive process.

Yet the company is already looking to expand in the West and start experimenting with other camel milk products like yogurt, cheese and chocolates.

For now, this wanna-be super food can be easily bought online but beware. In some Gulf states it’s believed to be a potent aphrodisiac.

OZY’s Rob Carpenter contributed to this story.


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