Buffalo and camel: The next big super foods?

  • Article by: DALE NEAL , Citizen-Times
  • Updated: August 2, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Can eating products from buffalo and camels make us healthier? The idea is starting to make inroads in U.S.


In this June 2, 2014 photo, owner Frank King gives a camel a snack on his farm at Carolina Bison in Leicester, N.C. The farm now has new animals in his herd: camels and white buffalo. King plans on milking the camels to sell the milk, stating they have great health benefits. (AP Photo/The Asheville Citizen-Times, Erin Brethauer) NO SALES

Photo: Photos by Erin Brethauer • Asheville Citizen-Times,

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Dr. Frank King is looking for the next super food on his farm north of Asheville, N.C. Against the backdrop of the Newfound Mountains, his herd of 300 majestic bison graze the rolling pastures — raised for their leaner, healthier meat.

But Leicester is more than where the buffalo roam. The farm is also home to a herd of 23 camels — humped dromedary camels, familiar in tour shots of the Egyptian pyramids, and double-humped hairy Bactrians, native to Asia and comfortable in mountain cold. “Those are the animals that built the Great Wall of China,” King said.

Now King hopes to build a new business on the camel’s milk. Long a staple food in the Mideast, camel milk could provide nutrition and dietary supplements and sell at prices starting at $18 a pint in this country.

We are largely what we eat, King said. “Epigenetics suggest that we can actually change our genes by how we live. Right now in modern society, we are like polar bears released into a Death Valley environment. When people connect with nature, they feel better, and wild is better.”

Camels are some of the most adaptive animals on the planet, able to endure blazing hot Saharan deserts and bitterly cold Mongolian steppes. Consuming their milk could provide health benefits, he said. Some Amish parents, for example, believe that camel milk can help their children with autism and attention deficient disorders, King said. The Amish have started their own camel dairies in the United States.

“The milk is tasty. The dromedaries’ milk has a slightly salted taste and creamier. The Bactrians’ is less salty,” King said. King and his family are drinking about four doses a day for better health.

The camels are milked by hand, producing about two gallons a day. The farm hands put the mothers in with their babies to get the milk flowing, then move the youngsters aside. “You don’t have to bend over,” King said. “You can milk standing up.”

They are still experimenting with pasteurization methods, required by federal law if the milk is to be sold across state lines. For now, they have a 15-second flash pasteurization method that leaves more of the nutrients intact.

Through his Wild Foods Foundation nonprofit, King is pursuing research on camel milk as well as products from 29 Himalayan yak and a pair of exotic African Watusi, a kind of herd animal whose 8-foot-long horns put Texas longhorns to shame.

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  • In this June 2, 2014 photo, White buffalo graze in the fields in Leicester, N.C. The Carolina Bison now has new animals in his herd: camels and white buffalo. Owner Frank King plans on milking the camels to sell the milk, stating they have great health benefits. (AP Photo/The Asheville Citizen-Times, Erin Brethauer) NO SALES

  • The Growing camel farms

    Several farms are adopting camel milking programs in Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio. New milking programs are set to open in Louisiana, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Idaho, Tennessee and Florida. The U.S. camel population is estimated at 5,000.

    Health benefits

    Scientific studies show:

    • Levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc are higher than in cow’s milk.

    • Cholesterol in camel milk is lower than cow or goat milk.

    • Camel milk is three times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk and 10 times higher in iron.

    • Camel milk has more fat and protein than cow’s.

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