Got Camel Milk? Maybe You Should
Dairy products of the bovine variety have been under scrutinty for some time now, thanks to added growth hormones and other horrific additives found in industrial farms, and the well-documented cruelty cows and calves in the dairy industry endure.
"Milk from a commercial dairy is likely to contain much higher levels of natural sex hormones than you'd find in milk from a traditional (pre-industrial) dairy herd," reported Mother Jones in 2014.
But isn't milk supposed to be healthy?
A 2014 Harvard study stated that while calcium is important to growing strong bones until the age of 30, milk is not the only—or the best—source of calcium. We can eat calcium-rich foods like leafy greens and broccoli. Cow's milk has been linked to a possible increased risk of ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Thanks, hormones.
Labeling does not always reflect the hormones in milk, as they're injected into cows that are inseminated to produce milk rather than added to the product itself.
As the only mammal who drinks milk in adulthood, we should be able to make informed decisions about the type of milk we're drinking. Of course, drinking milk from a free-range, non-injected cow would be the way to go, but that's not so easy to find, especially in urban areas.
Many have switched to non-dairy alternatives, such as soy, almond, coconut and hemp—they're all found on grocery shelves. Starbucks even started carrying coconut milk this week as its second non-dairy creamer alternative. At a 60-cent upcharge, this addition will cost you, but the health benefits of coconut versus real dairy are evident.
Also expensive and rare: camel milk.
Camels, which do not need pastures on which to graze and are abundant in the Middle East also produce a bounty of milk. Camels can produce about a gallon of milk per day, whereas a cow can produce up to 10. However, camels can lactate for over a year after pregnancy, while cows only go a few months. In the desert, camel's milk is sometimes the only beverage for humans when water is unavailable, according to Slate.
Though still difficult to obtain, and harsh on the wallet, camel's milk can become a more viable, healthier alternative to cow's dairy.
In the United States, San Diego's Oasis Camel Dairy was the first in the country to sell camel milk, and functions also as a tourist destination to ride and handle camels. Any dairy farm this small, not herding industrial quantities of animals, has more control over what they're selling and is hopefully more transparent about their natural product.
Another American company, Desert Farms, sources its product from small Amish farms in the Midwest, where camels are milked naturally for their raw milk and also used in Christmas nativity scenes. The company sells its camel milk at $18/pint at Whole Foods, and claims its product has 50% less fat and saturated fat than USDA whole milk.
Modern Famer says that studies have proved the "anti-inflammatory beverage will soothe symptoms of Crohn’s disease, IBS and diabetes thanks to its low sugar content and high levels of protein and vitamin C."
While camel milk is never going to replace cow's milk, it shouldn't. Americans already drink far too much milk as it is and need more variety in their diets. While making milk affordable, industrial farms have also made it dangerous, allowing Americans to consume milk at rates that often far outweigh milk's health benefits. Camel milk's prohibitive cost makes it more of a luxury treat, a healthy one, which is perhaps how milk should be seen in the first place.