Comparision of Camel, Cow, Goat and Buffalo Milk

by Sarah on June 5, 2009

It is amazing how much you can discover about a person’s culture through the foods that that they eat. On our last trip to Jordan I asked our guide, Ahmed if he liked camel’s milk but he looked at me askance and said that he never drank it. Then I ask him about his favorite meal and he immediately said Maklouba, a rice and meat casserole popular in the Middle East.  His favorite version was with cauliflower (which he called white flower) but it is also made with fried eggplant slices and other seasonal vegetables. I knew he had to be Palestinian because Maklouba, which means to turn upside down, is very popular both with them and the Arab Israelis. Later on I asked Ali, another Jordanian guide, what he thought about camel’s milk and he couldn’t stop talking about its virtues. He described how a friend cured his stage three cancer, which had spread throughout his body, by drinking it fresh every day. Although he didn’t initially tell me, Ali had to be a Bedouin, because camels are an integral part of their heritage.

Jordanians as a whole, both the Palestinians and Bedouins, are very fond of yogurt, especially sheep or goat yogurt and eat it in a variety of ways. Sometimes they stabilize the yogurt with cornstarch or egg whites and use it their cooking, such as kibbeh in yogurt sauce. Other times they make a cold cucumber yogurt salad with dried mint and garlic, refreshing in the heat of the desert. In Israel, yogurt is made from goat or cow milk and recently I also tasted yogurt made from buffalo’s milk, which is much thicker and creamer. Seventy percent of the world’s population has some level of lactose intolerance and many do not even realize this. One natural method to reduce lactose in milk is to produce yogurt with it. This product is much more easily digested because the bacterium growing in the yogurt produces the enzyme lactase, which naturally degrades the lactose in the milk.

Prof. Reuven Yagil, from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, is trying to develop camel milk commercially to make it more widely available. Although camel milk has been found to have many curative powers, pasteurization destroys the health benefits of the milk. In fact, even though camel milk (or meat) is not kosher and forbidden by Jewish law, in some cases, Jewish religious authorities have allowed the consumption of camel’s milk as a medicinal food. To retain the medicinal properties of the camel milk while preserving its freshness, Prof. Yagil had the innovative idea to produce camel ice cream (gamalida in Hebrew) in 1999. EICMP (Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products) even makes a special date flavoured camel milk ice cream which was introduced during Ramadan. There are still many hurdles to establish camel milk farms in the United States because of laws requiring pasteurization. The FAO (The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) is moving forward with interesting nontraditional uses for camel milk such as camel cheese, called camelbert and even camel milk chocolate. I have never tried camel milk but according to Ali it tastes sweet  and is slightly saltier than cow’s milk.

In order to make sense of all these varieties of milk, I have made a table comparing four major sources, cow, camel, buffalo and goat.  What I learned from this research is that many people find goat milk much easier to digest. I have always attributed this to lower lactose level and although this is true, it is not significant enough to make a difference. Apparently goat milk differs in fat and protein content and these differences create smaller fat molecules which have less of a tendency to aggregate. As a result goat milk is digested faster and the symptoms of lactose intolerance are reduced.

Buffalo milk is the most popular in India where it is made into the local cheese called paneer. In Italy, buffalo milk is made into yogurt and their famous mozzarella, which has a much finer texture than that made with cow milk. There is a small buffalo farm nearby which makes excellent mozzarella far superior to that made with cow milk. For those living in New England Bufala de Vermont diary is a good source of buffalo milk products.

Comparision of buffalo, camel, cow and goat milk

The levels of fat, protein and lactose listed in the table are approximate. These rates fluctuate between species and even when checked during different times with the same animal.

Buffalo

Camel

Cholesterol lower cholesterol than cow or goat milk lower cholesterol than cow or goat milk
Vitamins and Minerals Similar to cow’s milk, although higher in calcium 3 times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk, 10 times higher in iron but less vitamin A and B2
Protein 4 % 2.2-5%
Cross reactivity of milk protein Some protein antibody cross-reactivity with goat and cow. One case of Buffalo milk tolerance when allergic to cow milk Little or no cross-reactivity between cow and camel milk proteins. This indicates that those allergic to cow milk can drink camel milk.
Lactose 4.8% 4.8%
fat 7-8 % 3-5%
Fat characteristic Smaller molecules which don’t clump  together like in cow’s milk. Contains lower levels of agglutinin  compared to cow’s milk but  has similar digestibility. Does not contain enough agglutinin and therefore  fat molecules do not clump together. Size of the fat molecules are similar to cows
Butter, cheese making Traditionally used to make mozzarella in Italy, better color and texture, yogurt is thick and creamy Does not contain sufficient agglutinin for efficient cream separation, Butter is made using a centrifuge, Cheese produced using camel rennet, vegetable rennet has been used with limited success. Easily made into yogurt
Health Low in cholesterol, good source of nutrients such as calcium and other vitamins and minerals Used to treat type 1 diabetes (contains insulin like molecules), strengthens cellular immune response,  high in lactoferrin, which has antimicrobial activity, reduces allergic response in children
Problems Contains lactose so may be a problem with those suffering with lactose intolerance Contains lactose so may be a problem with those suffering with lactose intolerance, although better tolerated than cow’s milk
Flavor Similar to cow milk Sweeter than other milks

Cow

Goat

Cholesterol Higher than buffalo or camel milk Higher than buffalo or camel milk
Vitamins and Minerals Higher fat and protein than human milk Low in B6 and B12, higher in calcium than cow milk
Protein 3.29% 3.56%
Cross reactivity of milk protein Casein antibody cross-reactivity with goat and cow. 2-3% infants allergic to milk proteins. Similar casein structure to human milk and different from cow. Those allergic to cow milk might also be allergic to goat milk in about 25% of the cases
Lactose 4.7% 4.1%
fat 1-3% 3-6%
Fat characteristic Needs to be homogenized otherwise fat rises to the top, large fat molecules have a tendency to clump Larger number of small fat molecules than cow milk, Smaller softer curd, no cream formation. Does not contain agglutinin, so the fat molecules do not clump together. Believed to be the reason why it is easier to digest. more essential
fatty acids such as linoleic and arachnodonic , and higher medium chain  fatty acids
Butter, cheese making Contains agglutinin, fat separates easily, butter made by churning, cheese is made using rennet Lacks agglutinin, difficult to make butter by churning, many soft goat cheeses are made without rennet
Health Good source of calcium and vitamin D More easily digested because of smaller fat size and distribution characteristics. It is also alkaline. Better tolerated with those with lactose intolerance.
Problems Linked to milk allergies and intolerance ranging from atopic dermatitis, diarrhea, and constipation. Not appropriate for those who have severe lactose intolerance, although usually tolerated better than cow’s milk
Flavor Flavor can be strong in comparison

Interesting links and information:

Tolerance to Water Buffalo Milk in a Child with Cow Milk Allergy, Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2009 April; 102(4): 349. William J. Sheehan, MDab and Wanda Phipatanakul, MD, MSab

Camel milk as an adjuvant therapy for the treatment of type 1 diabetes: verification of a traditional ethnomedical practice. J Med Food. 2009 Apr;12(2):461-5, Mohamad RH, Zekry ZK, Sharawy SM

The Creaming Properties and Size Distribution of Fat Globules in Camel Milk, Z. FARAH, Institute of Food Science Swiss Federal Institute of Technology CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland, M. RUEGG, Federal Dairy Research Institute CH-7 Liebefeld-Bern, Switrerland

http://www.saanendoah.com/compare.html

http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Flavoured-camel-milk-hits-the-Middle-East

Milk and Meat from the Camel, Handbook on Product and Processing by Zakaria Farah, Albert Fischer, Omar Abdulkadir Sh. Abdurahman

Goat Milk on FoodistaGoat Milk

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

OysterCulture June 5, 2009 at 11:28 am

How very interesting, and you know in the US, I have never seen camels milk. I am very intrigued.

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lisaiscooking June 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Very interesting post! I’d love to try camel milk ice cream.

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EssexGourmet June 7, 2009 at 5:53 am

Very Interesting and informative article, particularly the cultural insight into Jordanian/Israli cultural eating… Would love to know what makes milk ‘Kosher’.

I think the Camels need to watch their backs – milk with medicinal properties that is both sweet and salty – hello!

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Sarah June 7, 2009 at 11:21 am

Kosher food is a large and complex topic but in short kosher mik must come from a kosher animal (one which has a cloven hoof and chews its cud) in which the milk production is supervised until bottled. Camels are not kosher because they do not have cloven hooves. For more information see wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosher_foods

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Simi July 26, 2010 at 7:21 am

Todah Sarah. I had to look it up in Torah because camels are so rare in the US that I couldn’t remember. I drink kosher goats milk for the reasons you listed above.
BGU is my favorite university because of it’s relationship with bedoins and BG was a linguist. I think it is wise of BGU to assist them in accomplishing monetary autonomy. I must say though that I repelled initially at the idea of unkosher food production in Israel, kind of like a pig farm-yuch!

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Sarah July 26, 2010 at 7:49 am

Thanks Simi,
Pigs are grown on raised platforms, the only way the rabbinical authorities would allow them in the country.

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Jaxon April 14, 2011 at 3:05 am

I’m not easily ipmrsseed. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

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Alisa@Foodista June 7, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Great Post Sarah! I found you through blog catalog and I’ve enjoyed reading through your posts.Bookmarked your site already. It would be interesting if we could make dulce de leche using camel milk :) Sarah,I’d love to guide foodista readers to your site if you won’t mind. Just add this foodista widget to this post and it’s all set to go, Thanks!

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Kelly Brown June 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

Hi, gr8 post thanks for posting. Information is useful!

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Cmiranda June 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Really informative post on camel and goats milk, I keep thinking of all the different ways I can use these in my recipes.

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ravindra August 26, 2009 at 6:46 am

we would like to know why are not freezing the curd of the camel ? pls send me quickly

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admin August 28, 2009 at 12:51 pm

In the case of making camel cheese, it is possible to freeze the milk until ready to use (it must be defrosted slowly). I am not sure how freezing will effect the texture and composition of the curds.

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katesisco December 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Epilepsy: use medium chain fatty acids, leave out pasteurized cow’s milk. Use goat cheese, milk and if you can find it labeled, ( you won’t) water buffalo milk, cheese.

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Joe Schmoe December 31, 2009 at 9:29 am

Pasteurization destroys the health benefits of all milk, not just camel’s milk. People who are lactose intolerant can often drink raw milk and enjoy its beneficial effects. I’d love to try camel’s milk. I tried milking my mae, but they have such small udders, and are so far off the ground, that it’s pretty hard logistically. I can only imagine that the same logistical problems exist with camels. I’d love to see how it’s done.

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christine August 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

Hello Sarah! I found this blog in Foodista and followed it here. This is a very informative blog. Thanks for sharing. By the way you can place more Foodista widget in your past and future blogs so that other Foodista readers can follow and see your blog too. Just search for a related recipe or food in Foodista and use its widget. I hope to read more from you. Cheers!

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zubair ahmed October 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

i learn something new thanks i really apreciated.

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ali hlalat November 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

thankes for the nice photo in wadi al gwiare have a look to my facebook the desert-ranger @hotmail.com

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Sarah February 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

thanks Ali!

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jyoti February 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

Is it really easy to get yogurt from camel’s milk?

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jahanzeb khan July 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm

let me know about the technology and the scientific procedures of converting camel milk into the yougert and cheese.

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Asif Asif October 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

I WANT FULL CHART WITH COMPARISION INCULDING SHEP AND DEER

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Catherine, The Herb Lady January 1, 2012 at 9:21 am

Hi Sarah,

Nice post. I have been reading recently (2011) about the attempts to start raising camels in the US. While I no longer own goats their milk quickly became our favorite, once I understood the distinction about what they feed on (a lot of folks commented to me about the ‘off’ taste and that has a lot to do with what the goats feed on). Thank you for a nice chart. :-)

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Elena May 26, 2012 at 12:21 am

Sarah, thank for comparison table. It’s very useful.
i live in Israel something above 22 years and have never seen camel milk in any shop here ( i live in central area).
Buffalo milk and buffalo dairy products enough expensive and rare for purchasing too.
fortunately, already several years stores has s a fresh goat’s milk always.
It solve a problem for peoples ( like me) with cow milk intolerance.
I am not recommend to use a raw camel milk, only if this milk received from animals under veterinary supervision ( I mean such diseases as Brucellosis or Tuberculosis that can transmitted with milk).

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Raquel June 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm

this is very informative. I was able to formulate feeds for camel way back in the United Arab Emirates, a decade ago. with the information above, many people will be curious to taste camel milk which later on resulting in a good market of this product, the milk from camel.

Zen

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Sarah June 4, 2012 at 3:28 am

Thanks Raquel for letting me know

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Carl S August 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

Cow’s milk does not contain Vitamin D. Infact no real natural product other than mushrooms does. I found this out the hard way, when I was outside the US for an extended period and doing office work and getting little sunlight. Cow’s milk in much of the world is NOT artifically fortified with Vitamin D as it is in the US. And I developed a very low level of Vitamin D in my blood leading to all sorts of health problems.

Just saying… after all any of the differences could be overcome by human intervention.

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wajahat hyder September 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

so which milk is best for humans camel’s,buffalo’s or goat’s?

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Alex January 11, 2013 at 7:33 am

HI everyone i would appreciate it if someone tell if the camel milk contains vitamin-D,
Thanks,

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Joe Garverick February 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I think I’m one of the few people milking camels in the united states there are a few Amish milking but no English

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Roderick Starns March 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm

producing camel milk in hot arid regions requires less water than producing cows milk making it eco- freindly and sustainable.

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Umm asma March 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm

“A group of people came to Medina, became ill and their bellies got swollen ..the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of Milch camels and to drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they went as directed and after they became healthy..”Sahih Bukhari, (Volume 1, Book 4, Number 234)”

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firdawsa May 3, 2013 at 11:01 pm

wow i really appreciate the comparison and liked the table, since i want to get rid of my cholesterol and i love milk so i will know the kind of milk to take from this time

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Rickey July 4, 2013 at 4:41 am

All are equal but the difference is in the amount of free circulating leptin is tied to the amount of rest that they get.

If you re really hungry, you ll want to eat? The tips below will go far to get you going on your weight loss.

If you love eating those cheeseburger, then you are not mistaking thirst for dieting guidelines
hunger pains.

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D.Rama Krishna Naidu October 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Sir,
I want to Know cow milk purchase rate chart based on reading, fat and SNF of Heritage foods.
Thanking you,
D.Rama Krishna Naidu

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T February 2, 2014 at 10:17 am

Where can you buy buffalo yogurt in Israel?

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Sarah February 20, 2014 at 5:17 am

I’ve seen buffalo yogurt at most major supermarkets

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