11:13am UK, Thursday December 31, 2009
Ashish Joshi, Gulf correspondent
Camel milk could soon be on supermarket shelves in Europe after a Dubai-based dairy applied for an export licence.
Camelicious already sells its products across the Gulf region and now the company has ambitious plans to break the European market.
But it needs to convince EU officials the camel milk meets stringent health and safety tests.
Camelicious lawyer David Wernery says camel milk is far more nutritious than its cow counterpart.
"First of all, the vitamin C content is very much higher in camel milk than in cow's milk, about 4 or 5% more," he said.
"It is low in fat, naturally low in fat, so cow's milk has about 4%, camel milk has almost 2% fat.
"So it is like drinking skimmed cow's milk but it still has the rich texture and full body taste of normal milk."
The idea was first hatched almost 10 years ago by David's father Ulrich, who is Dubai's chief veterinarian.
He had just returned from a conference on camel husbandry in Tajikistan.
This is where he first tasted milk from the humped beast.
Mr Wernery Sr was so taken with the milk that he set about persuading his employer, Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed, to invest in his plan.
"The Bedouins who lived in the desert lived mainly from camel milk and dates," he said.
"Without camels, they would not have survived in the desert.
"The milk was a very good source of protein but it has never been used for commerce.
"When I came back from the conference, I told Sheikh Mohammed that he has wonderful race camels but they also produce milk.
"It is the white gold of the desert and I tried to convince him to open a commercial dairy farm. He was very enthusiastic.
"For two years we tested 16 camels with a camel-milking machine and a stand.
"It was then that Sheikh Mohammed called me and said 'let's start the dairy farm tomorrow'."
That small experiment has grown into a multi-million pound dairy and the specialist hand-selected herd is now over 3,000 strong.
The custom-made machinery and the state-of-the-art milking plant are top secret.
Journalists are not allowed on site because, according to the dairy managers, they "may carry infections that could compromise the camel herd".
But it's more probably because the race is on in the Arab world to farm and harvest one of the few abundantly available resources.
One problem facing potential dairy farmers is that most camels produce insufficient milk to make commercial profit.
One way around that is to invent one that does. Earlier this year scientists in Dubai unveiled Injaz, the world's first cloned camel.
She was created in a laboratory using cells taken from the ear of a slaughtered camel.
Injaz represents hope for the future of the uber camel: one that is stronger, faster and more productive.
One by-product of camel milk that is already available in Europe is chocolate.
Because it is less than 50% animal product, it is not subject to the same rules as the milk.
The chocolate is popular in the Far East and Camelicious claims it struggles to meet growing demand from its local Middle Eastern customers.
General manager Martin Van Almsick reckons once customers get over their initial reservations they are hooked after their first bite.
"What is inside the chocolate fulfils the promise. Everyone who has a chocolate in their mouth is able to tell," he said.
"Camel milk has a slightly salty taste, we tried to preserve that special quality in the chocolate and everybody can tell."
See video at: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Strange-News/Camel-Milk-Camelicious-Dairy-From-Dubai-Hoping-To-Export-White-Gold-Of-The-Desert-To-Europe/Article/200912415511568?f=rss