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Comparative Lactation - Camels


This section was developed by Tara VanEtten, a graduate student in Animal Sciences, 2005. Thanks, Tara.

Camels' Milk Anyone?

When asked if they would be interested in consuming camel milk instead of cow milk, many people answered with "Are you serious?" or "I think I'll pass." These are two common answers that are to be expected in the United States, but when comparing milk consumption in countries in the Middle East, a completely different attitude would be present. Camel milk has filled a market in desert countries where camels are well populated. Because camels can survive during drought periods, these populations have turned to them as a source of milk. While camel milk consumption is common in these areas, it has yet to pick up in other areas of the world. If marketed appropriately, camel milk could expand from the niche market it currently fills.

Camel milk has an opaque-white color and often a sweet but sharp taste that can at times have a salty flavor. The variation in taste is due to the type of feed consumed by the camel as well as the amount of readily available water. The amount of milk produced by the camel is not affected by lack of water or type of forage, but the smell, taste, and content are. By controlling diet, camel milk producers could market their milk as having different "flavors." They could produce a saltier tasting milk by controlling water intake and market that as one "flavor" while continuing to produce the sweeter, sharper taste. This is different in cow milk in that a cow's milk yield will actually decrease with an inadequate diet. When comparing to lack of water, a cow will also secrete more concentrated milk.  

As previously mentioned, the composition of camel milk changes with the amount of water consumed by the animal. Milk is rich in fat when water is available to the animal, but water content increases to over 90% and fat content decreases to approximately 1% when water is scarce (Yagel and Etzion, 1980.) This proves that camel milk is not only a source of nutrition, but a source of liquid as well. This could also be marketed to various populations. By controlling water intake, a producer could produce milk that is rich in fat and nutrients. He could also market his milk as a source of liquid to a different population.

When comparing mineral content of camel milk to that of cow milk, several minerals were of higher content in camel milk. This too could be used to market camel milk as being just as nutritious, if not more, as cow milk. Sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus levels were similar in camel milk and in cow milk, while potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese tended to be slightly higher in camel milk (Gorban and Izzeldin, 1997).  

By using the information about mineral content, milk composition, and flavor variation, camel milk could be marketed to reach the interests of a larger population, rather than just the niche market it currently fills. With the right marketing and filling the interests of the public, the answer to the question about consuming camel milk could soon change from "No way" to "Sure, where can I get that?" Again, by focusing on the benefits of nutrition, flavor, and mineral content, camel milk could be a common product found in many supermarkets across the world.


Gorban, Ali M. S., and Izzeldin, Omar, M., (1997) Mineral Content of Camel Milk and Colostrum, pp. 1-3. J. Dairy Res . 64, 471-474.

Yagil R. and Etzion Z. (1980) The Effect of Drought Conditions on the Quality of Camels' Milk. J. Dairy Res . 47, 159-166.

Yagil R., Saran A., and Etzion Z. (1983) Camels' Milk: For Drinking Only?, Comp. Biochem. Physiol. Vol. 78A, No. 2, pp.263-266

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