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Milk of camelids, Mediterranean perspective

The climate emergency and the needs of food security they stimulate reflections on the advisability of breeding camelids to produce milk and derivatives with a high nutritional value, also from a Mediterranean perspective. Resilience, animal welfare and health promotion seem to converge on the promising value of this area of ​​animal husbandry.

The population census of camels and dromedaries in the 46 countries where they are reared is difficult to accurately update, as these activities often take place in remote areas and in nomadic communities. The nutritional value of camel milk and the economic interest associated with it for the farmers themselves, however, lead us to foresee a growing trend. (1)

The scientific review of two of the greatest experts in the sector (Konuspayeva, Faye, 2021) has made it possible to identify the most suitable techniques for the transformation of this raw material which differs from cow's milk in several respects and therefore requires the execution of suitably adapted processes. (2)

Camelids, resilience and subsistence

The camelids - namely camels (Camelus Bactrianus), dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius) and their crossings - play a crucial role in the subsistence of some pastoral populations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Resilient and productive, these animals are the protagonists of various socio-economic and cultural interactions, from transport to traditional races. They are therefore preferred to other livestock and considered investments of long-term value. (3)

The transition from the traditional extensive breeding model to more current forms, such as the semi-intensive, it is in turn progressively affirming itself. Hand in hand with the spread of consumption of camel milk and its fermentation products in urban contexts.

Lack of data

Official data available involve 46 nations, of which 20 in Africa, 25 in Asia and 1 in Europe, in Ukraine. FAO manages the   more comprehensive which is however partial and largely based on inevitably approximate estimates.

FAOSTAT in fact, in its latest report, it collects only the data provided by the governments of about half of the countries where camelids are reared, often without even distinguishing between species. The researchers therefore recommend strengthening census activities.

Camel milk

Camel milk it is generally consumed raw, in the traditions of the nomads. Who have always resorted to natural fermentation to prolong it shelf life. Pasteurization is on the other hand necessary to inhibit pathogenic microorganisms.

The pulverization it is now considered one of the best strategies for guaranteeing product conservation and transport even over long distances. However, the costs of removing the water remain high, in both cases spray drying and freeze-drying.

Processed products

The fermentation spontaneous has allowed to obtain numerous traditional products, such as shubat in Kazakhstan, the garris in Sudan, the laben in Arab countries and theititu in Ethiopia, to be consumed alone. Or the lfrik of Morocco and the shawl Iranian, to be mixed in water. This variety of products derives from the abundant microbiological biodiversity of lactic bacteria (LAB) useful for technological developments that offer sensory and health properties of great interest, as we have seen. (4)

Cheese, yogurt and butter da camel milk instead they lack tradition and industrial applications. The lower quantity of k-casein is in fact an obstacle to the creation of a strong curd, as well as of consistent structures. The small size of the fat globules, which hinders the production of butter, favors that of ice cream. Which are in fact already widely spread in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Kazakhstan.

Provisional conclusions

The census of the camelids (camels and dromedaries) reared on the planet deserves a correct and continuous updating, to better understand the opportunities that can derive from it. And it is also important to refine the technologies consistent with the peculiarities of camel milk, in view of the creation of products with high added value, thanks to the high digestibility of the raw material and the precious virtues associated with its consumption (4,5).

The Mediterranean it represents a promising geographical context for carrying out these activities. The EU research project Camel Milk, in Horizon 2020, collects the experiences and skills of some of the leading experts in the sector, including the authors of the first two studies cited here in the note. With the contribution, among other things, of our team. For the express purpose of sharing good breeding and processing practices, technologies and rules to be applied. (5)

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) Bernard Faye (2020). How many large camelids in the world? A synthetic analysis of the world camel demographic changes. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice 10, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13570-020-00176-z

(2) Gaukhar Konuspayeva, Bernard Faye (2021). Recent Advances in Camel Milk Processing. Animals 11: 1045, https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041045

(3) Bernard Faye (2013). Camel Farming Sustainability: The Challenges of the Camel Farming System in the XNUMXst Century. Journal of Sustainable Development 6 (12): 74-82, https://doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v6n12p74

(4) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Camel milk, a supply of probiotics that are health allies. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.6.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/latte-di-cammella-una-scorta-di-probiotici-alleati-della-salute

(5) Dario Dongo. Camel Milk, superfood. Mediterranean research project. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.6.19/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/camel-milk-superfood-progetto-di-ricerca-mediterranea

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna
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Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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