Unusual dairy product that’s the next big superfood
THE saying goes that a camel is a horse designed by a committee - I'm now thinking the design might have started off as a cow.
Camel milk is one of a range of alternative-to-bovine milks now available in NSW that is starting to gain popularity with those interested in their health and with culinarily-adventurous foodies - camel haloumi even picking up a gold medal at the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show.
From their sweeping property 'Piercefield' at Denman just outside Muswellbrook, Michelle and Dan Phillips operate Camel Milk NSW, the only licensed camel dairy in NSW.
The business has been in operation since early 2015 and is steadily expanding - they now have 80 head of … er … camel.
The dromedary dairy is Michelle's bold idea and with her award-winning camel milk retailing for an eye-watering $25 per litre it's certainly a niche market, but thanks to her drive and passion it is beginning to flourish.
Every Wednesday - hump day - Michelle gears up for the long drive to Sydney and a marathon day in personally delivering supplies of milk to her ever-growing list of suppliers all over the city and in the suburbs.
The product is certainly gaining a loyal following of camel milk aficionados around Australia and even overseas - and for good reason.
Camel milk is closer to human milk than that from cows and it is well-regarded for its health properties - its rich in nutrients and low in fat, it's a strong source of vitamins B and C, it contains less lactose and is therefore a better option for those who are lactose intolerant and it been said it may aid brain conditions and even autism.
It was these properties that intrigued Michelle and inspired her to create the dairy in the first place, when a friend who's son had cerebral palsy spoke of the difficulty in obtaining camel milk.
Yet milk isn't the only camel by-product the dairy manufactures - they also produce powdered milk, camel milk soap and camel oil lip balm.
Dan and his daughter Gabriella give us a tour of the dairy operation and drive us through an inquisitive herd of gangly, slobbery, stick-legged camels that tower over the tiny side-by-side farm vehicle we're in.
The bull of the herd - a giant male nicknamed Hugh Hefner for whatever reason - swaggers over to check us all out, Dan giving him a tickle and a rub on his neck with some gentle, reassuring words.
There's no doubt these animals are well-loved - the herd began with 11 camels rounded up in the desert between South Australia and Western Australia, almost certainly headed for the abattoir until the Phillips brought them to Piercefield.
Dan takes us into the production facility and invites Tim and I to imbibe in a shot of ice-cold camel milk fresh from the refrigerator.
It's our first look at this precious liquid and it's the milk's brilliant white that is quite startling, this is due to the way grass-eating camels digest carotene - the photosynthetic pigment that gives carrots their orange colour - like goats, camels turn it into vitamin A and the colour disappears.
Cow's milk has a slightly yellow tinge as the carotene isn't metabolised, it's stored in their fat and then into their milk.
And now for the taste, which is an altogether unexpected sensation. It is certainly easy to drink yet it leaves a peculiar, broad, flat, salty aftertaste - a flavour I'd never experienced before and certainly my tastebuds had no memory of anything remotely like that in their data banks.
Camel milk in your coffee? One hump or two?