At first glance it could be any scoop of ice-cream; its creamy texture enticingly adorned with chocolate chips or caramel swirls. But take a closer look at the list of ingredients and you’ll find an unusual entry — camel milk.
Saltier tasting than cow milk, camel milk is being promoted as a high in vitamin C, low in fat alternative by dairy farmers in the United Arab Emirates.
At the Al Ain Dairy Farm, situated some 120 kilometers from the gleaming skyscrapers of Dubai, over 1,600 camels now produce 40,000 bottles of milk each day.
The animals are milked three times a day, each producing around 10 liters which is then pasteurized, bottled, and shipped to stores across the Middle East usually within 12 hours.
The company, which launched its Camelait line in 2004, now makes its own range of flavored milk, powdered milk, and ice-cream — which retails between $2.75 for a 125ml tub, to $19 for a one-liter tub.
For centuries, nomadic herders of Arabia survived the harsh climate by drinking camel’s milk. Today, Al Ain Dairy Farm’s camel manager, Mubarak Mohamaed Al Hamdi, hopes it will soon be available to the entire world.
“We grew up on camels,” he explains. “Our ancestors had nothing but camels for food and milk. It’s always been part of our heritage and who we are. They give us life.
“The more time you spend with the camel, the stronger the bond becomes between you and that camel,” added Al Hamdi. “If you’re far away from your camel, you start missing that camel. And the camel misses you. The feeling grows stronger with time.”
The company first launched three decades ago, and also produces cow milk. Though unlike their camel cousins, these cows need a little more help coping with a desert heat and are treated to cooling units imported from the U.S.
“Today we have 7,000 animals here on site,” said the dairy’s Cow Farm Technical Manager, Pat O’Dwyer.
“We’ve increased production from 25 million liters over six years and currently we’re building a new farm,” he said, adding that they hope to double production in five years.
For this Middle East dairy farm, the taste of success could well be camel milk.