Camel: A future pillar of food industry

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Camels continue to be the preferred livestock species for exploiting extreme dry land areas. They are part of the culture of pastoralists and make up over 30% of the livestock biomass in desert. The Camelus genus of family Camelidae have two species Camelusdromedarius, the Dromedary, single humped or the Arabian camel and the Camelusbactrianus, the Bactrian or the double humped camel. The world population of camels is estimated to be 17 million. Dromedary, the single humped camels comprises about 91% of this figure and are mainly concentrated in the Arab world, predominantly in the Arabian countries of Africa. In the world, Pakistan is the fourth largest camel raising country with a population of over one million and having an annual increase of 1.62%. The camel population is unevenly distributed over the country, mainly in four distinct ecologic zones of Pakistan: (i) Sandy deserts (Thal and Cholistan in the Punjab and Thar in Sindh); (ii) Coastal mangroves (Thatta, Badin and Karachi districts of Sindh); (iii) Mountainous tracts (all of Baluchistan, D.G. Khan and D.I. Khan districts of Punjab and NWFP, respectively); and (iv) Irrigated plains (all irrigated districts of Punjab and Sindh). Three major camel production systems are found in Pakistan which are nomadic, transhumant and sedentary. About 26% of the camel herders follow nomadic production system. About 23% of camel herders are involved in transhumant system. Almost 50% of the people involved in the sedentary system for camel rearing that constitute the major proportion of household income.

In Pakistan, 0.829 million tons camel milk is produced annually. Average daily milk production of camel resides in the range between 3.5 to 35.0 kg per animal. The composition of camel milk in different parts of the world with a range of 3.5 to 4.5 % protein, 3.4 to 5.6 % lactose, 3.075 to 3.50 % fat and 12.1 to 15 % total solid. Camel milk is rich in vitamin D, salt, iron and minerals such as Na+, and K+. The quality of camel meat has received little attention and is wrongly believed to be of lower nutritive value and quality than other types of meat. Camel meat isin fact leaner than other red meats has fewer calories and is low in cholesterol. Compared to beef, camel meat tastes sweeter due to high glycogen and has a higher level of protein. Studies have revealed that camel meat is healthy and nutritional as it contains reduced fat contents in comparison to other meats especially beef. It also contains a healthy level of minerals. This is an important factor in combating the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Camel meat is also used for remedial purposes against diseases such as hyperacidity, hypertension, pneumonia and respiratory diseases. The meat of camel contains antioxidant properties that fight against cancer. The meat is not much affected by weather conditions because of the presence of anti-bacterial properties in camel meat, which makes it ideal for the consumption of desert dwellers that dont have preservatives or fridges. At the age of seven years a fattened camel can produce a carcass of about 260 kg with a meat and bone ratio of 3:1. Hence the camel as a meat source seems to be presenting a viable alternative to cattle. The habit of eating fatty meat may predispose to health risks. The decline of saturated fat level in the diet is a primary step in avoiding arteriosclerosis. As a result, now, the general trend in the world is to have tagged lean meat as it is synonymous with the good health. The share of camel hides in the total hides production in the country is about 0.2%. Camel hides are used to manufacture saddlers, sandals and beautiful decorative articles, some of which are also exported. 20,000 tons camel hair are produced in Pakistan annually and are used for manufacturing blankets, floor mats, carpets, tent cloth, bags and ropes. Thus, the share of camel hair in total livestock hair production is very decent (84%).

Although camel is an active member of the food producing family of farm animals but over the years it has been the most neglected animal in terms of its improvement and scientific research. The versatility of camel to survive and execute various activities in the hard arid and semi-arid regions and its matchless physiological system should inspire the researchers to study it more closely to further exploit its potential. The government should also actively intervene in camel meat markets and bound butchers to slaughter healthy animals of not more than three to four years of age. Food technologists should devise method for conversion of salty camel milk into quality cheese for the camel farmers, which can be eaten in raw form or can be used for making pizzas and other dishes. Establishment of educational institutions and skill development of the people should also be given due consideration in camel producing desert/semi-desert areas of the country. Along with public sector, private sector should also come forward for the betterment of this specie.

The authors are from the Department of Parasitology, UAF, and Department of Poultry Production, UVAS Lahore.


Published in: Volume 07 Issue 14

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