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From waste to value: Building a market for camel cheese

In an effort to help camel pastoralists in Sub-Saharan Africa establish the foundations for a local camel dairy industry, Chr. Hansen has joined forces with a Kenyan enterprise to advance local knowledge about the opportunities of camel milk processing.

The unexploited potential of camel milk

Two thirds of the world’s camels live in arid regions in Northern Africa. Yet, camel dairy farming is still relatively new in the region. An estimated 25–50% of the annual camel milk production in Kenya and Ethiopia is wasted because of lack of infrastructure and lack of the proper processing techniques to preserve the milk. 

Low in fat and high in calcium and protein, camel milk is a potent source for durable cheese, allowing camel owners to preserve the milk from the wet season, when volumes are higher than consumption, to the dry seasons, where demand is much higher.

But due to the different composition of camel milk compared to cow milk, previous attempts to produce camel cheese with traditional cheese coagulants have failed.

Pastoralist tradition combined with modern technology

In 2012, Chr. Hansen and the Kenyan company, Oleleshwa Enterprises Ltd., initiated a project to help small-scale camel owners increase the use-value of their livestock and prolong the shelf life of their milk. 

Building on insights from past projects in Brazil and Ecuador (to name but two) where our natural ingredients have helped milk producers make cheese, the project focused on the development of basic knowledge about camel cheese production to enable camel owners in rural Kenya and Somalia to produce cheese for both sales and own consumption.

Using the patented enzyme solution from Chr. Hansen called FAR-M®, camel owners are now able to effectively turn their camel milk into shelf-stable cheese with good curd firmness and high yield.

With the proper fermentation knowledge, ingredients, and distribution systems, camel milk could potentially help improve the living conditions of thousands of small-scale camel owners in Northern and Eastern Africa.

David Stroo

Senior Director Cheese Cultures

Sharing knowledge for dual benefit

The one-year project has helped advance local knowledge about camel cheese in Kenya and continues to help Chr. Hansen establish knowledge about industrial production of camel cheese in developing markets.

Several simple cheese recipes have been developed during the project, which have been collected in a Camel Cheese Manual that can be downloaded for free. In addition, Chr. Hansen has created an external camel forum on LinkedIn for camel farmers and cheese enthusiasts all around the world to share their experiences and recipes. 

“Developing this manual has been a very educational and enjoyable exercise. We have learnt many new facts about the processing opportunities of camel milk. 
“We also found ways to incorporate local traditional technology in the cheese-making process in pastoral areas where cooling facilities are not available—something that put a big, proud smile on the faces of the pastoralists so-far trained.” 
Anne Bruntse, Director of Oleleshwa Enterprises Ltd.

Continued support

Chr. Hansen continues to support efforts in rural Africa aimed at advancing knowledge on camel milk processing. For instance, we are currently supporting a research collaboration between the Danish Technical University, Copenhagen University and the University of Haramaya in Ethiopia, which aims at investigating the functional properties of camel milk to establish a camel-based dairy industry from this abundant milk source.

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