IT’S being touted as a healthy, environmentally friendly and ethical alternative to cow’s milk, and now a camel dairy is hoping Freo folk can help get its product over the hump of establishing an international market.
Good Earth Dairy has taken advantage of the 300,000-odd feral camels roaming inland Australia to establish a herd of 160 at its Dandaragan farm 200km north of Perth.
Now it’s bringing one of its prized milkers to Gilbert’s Fresh in Hilton next Friday July 28 to try and sway locals from their heifer juice.
Dairy CEO Marcel Steingiesser says there’s research on the horizon which is going to “blow away” cow’s milk and other nutty substitutes, but what’s known already is pretty impressive.
He says it’s the closest thing to “mother’s milk”; human milk contains higher levels of whey than casein proteins, while in cows that’s reversed which could explain why so many people find it difficult to digest.
The casein has also caught the eye of autism researchers, who are finding increasing numbers of parents saying their kids can tolerate camel’s milk far better than cow’s milk. A study even found it could improve behaviour.
The milk has also been proven in studies to help fight diabetes, as the proteins are short and mimic insulin.
“Cow’s milk also has a common allergen, beta lactoglobulin, and while a lot of people think that they’re intolerant, many would be allergic,” says Mr Steingiesser.
He says camel’s milk is also packed full of nutrients, with about three times as much calcium than cow’s milk, as well as bumper amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and potassium.
“A camel dairy also has a significantly smaller environmental footprint, as camels are from the desert and are good at retaining their moisture.”
Unlike cows, which are separated from the calves immediately, the camel dairy needs to keep the pair together to get the milk, which Mr Steingiesser says makes it a more ethical choice. The calf will drink from its mother for 3.5 years.
He says people have been responding well to tasting the milk, quickly getting accustomed to its slightly saltier taste (which is an indication of its extra nutritional value) while it’s not even detectable when added to a smoothie.
But price is a stumbling block. Having only a small herd which has to be brought in from the wild and then tamed by the dairy’s “camel whisperer” Stephen Geppert, it’s not cheap to produce and a litre will set you back around $20. Camels are also notoriously bad mothers, which means the cameleer has to be a constant midwife to help her bond with the calf.
But Mr Steingiesser hopes that will steadily decrease in response to demand, and he says Good Earth could theoretically stock 10,000 females and their calves if he could get council approval.
He’s also hopeful WA has something the rest of the camel-drinking world will want; a product free of foot and mouth and other diseases.
“We have the only clean camels in the world,” he says.
“This is a global product, and we could end up with a workforce of thousands in WA.”
If you want to get a selfie with a camel, as well as a free taste of their milk, head to Gilbert’s Fresh in Hilton between 12.30 and 3pm on Friday July 28.
by STEVE GRANT