Fed & Fit

Ep. 92: The Skinny on Camel’s Milk

On today’s episode, I’m interviewing Walid Abdul-Waham, owner of Desert Farms, about his ground-breaking efforts to bring incredibly healing camel’s milk to market.

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We’re back with our 92nd episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 92 Links

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Episode 92 Transcription

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. Today I’m joined by a very special guest; we’re going to talk about a very interesting topic. His name is Walid Abdul-Waham, and he is the pointy tip of the spear when it comes to bringing camel milk available to markets.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about Walid, and then I will allow him to introduce himself more thoroughly. So a little bit of his back-story that I know if, is he was visiting his family in his home town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, looking for raw milk. He was approached by a friend with a plastic bag of camel milk, of all things. Then he quickly realized camel’s milk was being used medicinally in the Middle East and the US for complex health problems. We’re going to learn all about that.

When Walid moved to California, he appreciated how people valued a healthy lifestyle. He realized that this was the perfect place to start a camel milk company. After selling camel milk at mosques and ethnic food festivals, Walid’s business plan won the Marcia Israel award; did I say that correct, Walid?

Walid Abdul-Waham: That’s right, yeah.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Yes! Nailed it. From USC. So he decided to leave his corporate real estate position and begin his camel adventure. Having made the big commitment, he went courting the world trying to spark camel milk revolution, and found the greatest and most friendly people. While looking for US camel herders in the Midwest, he came across a group known for being polite and down to earth. A group who didn’t exist in the Middle East; the wonderful Amish community, who exemplify hard work and cooperation. Watching them work together was and remains awesome to Walid. Walid felt that they deserved an easier way to bring their product to market, and he loves the quality of their camel milk.

Welcome to the show, Walid!

Walid Abdul-Waham: Thanks a lot, Cassy for having me.

Cassy Joy: OH my goodness, it is my pleasure. And I’m so excited to chat with you today. I told Walid I have all kinds of questions for him; probably a lot of the questions the listeners are thinking right now. {laughs} But before we get into those, I would love for you to fill in the gaps. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, and just how you got into the business of camel milk.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, so like you said, I have a Middle Eastern background; I have family in the Middle East, specifically living in Saudi Arabia right now. I visit every so often, and camel milk back home is essentially the wine of the Middle East. People prize it, and they give it to their guests to honor them. So it’s a very specialty, gourmet item back home. Every culture has its own super food; and your grandma, or my grandma used to tell me, if you get sick or ill just drink camel’s milk. So this was kind of our cure all disease for any type of ailments that was natural; that wasn’t from a drug or anything like that. So for us it was camel’s milk. I instantly knew that I had to bring this product, this concept to the United States. Because no one even heard of it, or no one would consider it. I decided that this is exactly the perfect time to introduce this product to the western world.

Cassy Joy: Wow that’s so fascinating. Now I have some specific questions, of course, about the milk itself that I’ll get to in a second, but I’m just curious off the bat; was the Amish community, were they already producing camel milk for themselves?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, the Amish community are very progressive in farming. They used to have a lot of camels, and they would lease them out to nativity scenes. So naturally they would own a lot of the camel stock in the United States. And they were milking them for their person use and selling them to their neighbors and whoever comes to their farm. So that was a practice that started about 10 years ago within that community.

And then when I found out about it, I said, hey I might as well partner with them and create a coop and build a business and start mass producing it to get it all across the United States.

Cassy Joy: Wow, that’s so interesting! Now just to clarify; I asked Walid this before we got on the call. But he lives in Los Angeles, right? Did I get that?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yep.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} Ok.

Walid Abdul-Waham: That’s right.

Cassy Joy: I’m going to make sure. I’m from Texas, and maybe it’s the time of day, or maybe it’s just California, but the cities run together in my mind. So, ok, he lives in Los Angeles. He doesn’t actually live with the Amish community, but I assume you visit them often to help nurture this coop you’ve got together.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, exactly. We try to visit them all the time. We try to help them in making things a little bit more efficient. As you know, the Amish aren’t very tech savvy; and that’s a choice, you know, it’s not because they’re incapable. But that’s their choice, they don’t’ compromise religion for anything. So we have to figure out ways to make operations a lot more efficient and how to make things run smoothly according to their needs. So it’s exciting and there are a lot of challenges, but definitely at the same time, it’s very rewarding.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Man! I really am, I’m not even joking with you Walid; that thrills me. What a fun challenge and an honor to work with such wonderful, wonderful people. That’s really cool.

Ok, so before I get into talking more, I do want to pick your brain on how this distribution model works with the milk itself. But let’s get down to the puzzling topic. Because this is probably the first time a lot of people listening have ever heard of camel milk; {laughs} and they’re probably a little confused and they probably have some very basic questions. Whereas it’s very normal; like you said it’s the wine of the Middle East; it’s common for so many folks. I need to break it down a little bit for some people, so I have some very basic questions for you.

So, how does; most folks are probably most familiar with cow’s milk or goat’s milk for people who tolerate goat a little bit better. How does camel milk differ from cow’s milk? Just to start with.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really good question. And basically the answer would tell you exactly who our customer base. The proteins are so unique in camel’s milk; they’re completely different from cow’s or goat’s milk. Camel’s milk is actually the closest milk to human’s mother’s milk; closer to donkey’s milk, closer to mare’s milk. And that’s been endorsed and commented by one of the top leading immunologists in the country, his name is Dr. Aristo Vojdani. He’s on the board of CR labs, so he does all the allergen testing, and he found that almost 90% of people that are given camel’s milk don’t react to it. And that’s because it lacks the beta casein that’s found in cow’s and goat’s milk. So if you’re allergic or have some sort of lactose intolerance; 90% of the time you do so much better than any other milk out there on the market.

Cassy Joy: Wow, that is so interesting. I mean that’s why a lot of people also gravitate towards buffalo cheeses; the buffalo milk, I think is a little difficult to get your hands on; but buffalo cheeses, because the casein protein is much less than that in cow’s or even goat’s milk. So that’s really interesting.

Now, a question about the taste. How does camel’s milk taste when compared to cow’s milk?

Walid Abdul-Waham: You know, it’s very similar and at the same time it’s different. I know that may sound confusing; but every farmer has a different way of raising their camels, and the feed is different, and the environment is different. So that’s why I kind of relate it to the taste of cheese. You’ll never get cheese that tastes exactly the same from farmer to farmer; similarly with this milk. But people have described it anywhere between being very sweet and light, to being slightly saltier than cow’s milk.

But we’ve done blind tests all the time, and you can almost never tell the difference, unless you actually tell the person to really distinguish the taste. So that’s pretty much the response we’re getting; is anywhere between sweet and salty. Which {laughs} you know is completely two different things.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Walid Abdul-Waham: But they say it’s very creamy; it’s not as heavy as cow’s milk, but it’s definitely really rich.

Cassy Joy: Wow, that’s so interesting. Ok, it could be a little sweet, a little salty; definitely creamy and rich. That sounds wonderful; all of the above! So when you prepare the milk; I would assume that the Amish community is raising their camels on grass, the natural environment. Is that correct?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, exactly. They roam on pasture, and they wild forage, and they supplement with them with some feed which is obviously all non-GMO, all organic, no soy, no corn. That’s the requirement we have on the farmers.

Cassy Joy: Got it; that makes a lot of sense. So we’ve got grass-fed camels. {laughs}

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yep.

Cassy Joy: That’s wonderful. And do you distribute the milk raw, or do you pasteurize it? How does that work?

Walid Abdul-Waham: So obviously the biggest business model we have is raw milk; everyone wants raw milk.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Walid Abdul-Waham: But we also do offer pasteurized milk, because we understand that a lot of people might not be ready to take it to the next step. So we kind of allow customers to; up to them to make the decision whether or not they want raw or pasteurized. But I would say 90% of all of our orders come from people who actually want raw milk.

And I think we’re probably the only milk company out there that gives the consumer the choice, and allows them to educate themselves and really make a choice for them and their family. But a huge proponent of raw milk; at the same time, we don’t have a preference over which is better. Because we think camel’s milk is good in both forms. Obviously, some people might disagree and say the enzymes are much more active in raw or pasteurized. But right now, we have a lot of people getting amazing results from drinking either or. At the end of the day, we want the consumers to do their research, to really make their own decisions based off of that, and we have two amazing products that are available.

Cassy Joy: That’s fascinating. I really love that you offer both; that’s great. That’s really interesting. Because if someone is just branching out and trying camel’s milk for the first time; it might be difficult to also at the same time make the leap for the first time in drinking raw milk. So I think that’s really, really smart of you guys.

So I know that there are; you akin camel’s milk to being sort of a cure-all from back home in the Middle East. It kind of sounds like it’s our chicken soup; you know, bone broth. {laughs}

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Is the correlation I drew. So are there specific health benefits to camel’s milk that are unique to that food product alone?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, I mean there’s tons of research out there that states that it’s the closest milk to human mother’s milk. So essentially that alone, people are using to help rebuild their microbiome and restore a healthy gut flora. And as we all know with all the research coming out on microbiome; that’s pretty much linked to a lot of the chronic diseases that a lot of Americans are facing these days. So if you focus on building a healthy gut and feeding it with prebiotics and probiotics, a lot of these symptoms that people are getting can essentially be relieved. So for us, that’s a huge opportunity for us to really promote this product.

Besides that; the protein structure of the milk is so unique, it has a colostrum like effect. So what colostrum is, I don’t know if you’re listeners would know, but just to describe it. Colostrum is essentially the first milk for any mammal when they’re born, and that’s between the first 24-72 hours. And that’s not really considered milk. It’s a very yellow, sticky milk that’s supposed to help boost the baby’s immune system. So that naturally has high levels of lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, antioxidants, and immune stimulant factors.

So with camel’s milk, you’re getting the same benefits of colostrum year-round. That’s mature milk; you don’t need to actually look for a source of colostrum in powder form. You can drink camel’s milk and get the same effect as drinking colostrum, because it’s so high in lactoferrin, it has a lot of biologically active immunoglobulins and IgF factors .so a lot of people are using it to boost their immune system. Anyone who has a compromised immune system or just basically modulate their microbiome. So that’s where we’re seeing a lot of people see a lot of benefit from it.

Cassy Joy: Wow that’s really fascinating! I had no idea. That’s very, very interesting. So I would assume, because colostrum, from what I understand, has a pretty high quality and volume percentage of fat content. So I understand; and I would assume that the camel’s milk that you’re selling is whole milk, right? You’re not reducing fat in any forms?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, it’s whole milk, and our fat content is around 8%, so that’s very similar to cow’s milk. During the early stages of lactation, it goes around 20-21%, because that’s closer to the colostrum aspect of it. And then the longer obviously the camel is lactating, the less fat naturally it starts producing. So that’s common amongst all mammalian milk out there.

Cassy Joy: Right, that makes a lot of sense. Ok, I know you know a thing or two about how fat burns fat, and I’d like to talk about it a little bit today. Most of the listeners here are definitely up to speed for the most part on the paleo approach, and they know that healthy fat is really good for you, for a lot of wonderful reasons. But I’d love to hear your take on it.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, I’m a huge proponent of fat actually burns fat. I mean, sugar is the main enemy. I don’t really look at nutrition labels anymore; I don’t’ even care what the fat content or the calories are. There’s always a really high proportion; like if there’s a high level of protein, most likely you’re going to get a proportionally same level of fat content. So if you just mostly look at fat and protein and try to avoid the sugar aspect of it, you’re pretty much on the right track to obviously losing weight and that type of stuff.

For us, even our customer base; all they’re looking for is fat. And obviously fat is basically a source of energy. And an interesting fact, as well, what people don’t really realize is that the camel itself; I mean, if you look at the camel, the hump of the camel is not actually filled with water, it’s filled with fat. And that fat is what actually makes it survive through the harshest desert climate; for the month without food or water. So that’s stored as energy. So fat is a real source of energy.

And if you look at mother nature, and how it’s created these animals thriving in one of the most difficult situations; that’s a lesson we should take from it as well. So we love fat. Fat is definitely the way to go, and consuming it is in no way going to make you be sore or unhealthy.

Cassy Joy: Awesome. Love it. I had no idea that the camel’s hump was fat. It makes perfect sense; I just, I think I held onto the nursery rhyme notion that it was water. {laughing}

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, no, it’s pure fat. Because during sometimes when it doesn’t have any food, the humps kind of slant down a little bit. And sometimes you won’t even see a hump on some occasions. But most of the time, if you see a really large, big hump, it means it has a really great source of energy and it’s ready to cross continents essentially.

Cassy Joy: Wow. Very fascinating. So neat! What cool animals. Ok, so now I’d love to chat with you about the business side of all of this. Have you faced; what kind of hurdles did you have to overcome to distribute raw milk in the United States? I’d love to pick your brain on that, if there were any; what that process has been like. And then what it’s like to build this coop with the Amish community?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, obviously raw milk is such a political topic these days. A lot of states have banned it or made it completely illegal. And in our case, that was a struggle. But at the same time, when we’re really looking into the regulation of shipping milk; you know, interstate, camels were not really included. So what was actually being regulated as illegal to sell raw milk across state lines was actually hoofed animals. So that would include bovine; which is cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, and all that type of stuff. Camels on the other hand, are non-hoofed animals. They have a foot like humans. So that wasn’t really part of the regulation that made it illegal to ship raw milk.

So this is how we’re actually; it’s pretty much a loophole and this is why we’re actually able to sell raw milk to anyone in the United States and Canada. And that’s a great loophole for us; because if they start including non-hoofed animals, which would include human beings. A mom wouldn’t even be able to take her own breast milk across state lines, essentially, or give it to someone who is need for it. So hopefully they don’t step beyond the rights of the consumer and actually add this clause where it’s included in there. At the moment we’re just waiting, but so far we haven’t see any combats or attacks on the regulator side.

Cassy Joy: Wow, that’s interesting I had no idea. Very fascinating. So you’re able to distribute to all of the states?

Walid Abdul-Waham: All the states and retail stores; direct to consumer, and Canada as well.

Cassy Joy: That’s great. Where; do you have a certain state or certain area, cities that are more popular, have a higher population of consumer than others.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah; I mean obviously LA is a big market; San Francisco, Dallas is huge for us as well. New York, New Jersey. Kind of the larger, bigger cities where there are a lot of health conscious individuals; that tends to be really popular. And then at the same time, we have about; I mean, most of our customer base right now has some sort of autoimmune disorder that are consuming the milk. So if you want to categorize it; one of the largest communities that’s purchasing our product right now is moms with children of autism, people with allergies and asthma and that type of stuff. So they’re the ones seeing the most benefit out of anyone; because it’s the only milk they can actually digest. It’s the only milk they can tolerate. It’s not causing any allergic reactions for them, and they’re getting all the nutritional benefits of colostrum.

Cassy Joy: Wow, that’s really wonderful. Really interesting. Ok, so I would like to talk about how you reengineered the distribution model, then, and I’m also curious about how much milk you’re putting out on a regular basis. How many herds of camel are out there that are a part of this coop?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, so right now we have about 3 farmers that are working with us right now. Our largest farm has about 120 camels. So we’re pretty still a small coop. it’s pretty difficult to get farmers to farm camels and milk them, because it is a very difficult process, and it’s very new. So right now, we’re trying to focus on one farm and grow with him as much as we can and we actually; when we first started like years ago, we started with only 6 or 7 camels so we definitely grew tremendously with that farmer that’s in the Midwest. Right now we’re definitely open to bringing more farmers to our distribution. We have a few of them that’s currently interested right now. So it’s just a matter of putting all the puzzles together and helping them get settled for grade A.

But the distribution is fairly very simple. Essentially, all our milk is produced and shipped directly from the farm. We don’t send the milk to a bottling process facility or anything like that. Everything is done, and the product is essentially completed on the farm. So there isn’t any person dealing, handling our product in the middle. So you’re getting it fresh from the farm, or you’re getting it frozen. You have the option for both.

And at the same time, we’re coming out with multiple products right now. We have chocolate bars in the pipeline; which hopefully should be ready by valentines. And then we have ice cream as well. And we’re trying to create also the first line of infant formula product made from camel’s milk because of the fact that it doesn’t cause any allergic reactions. So I think that’s going to be a larger market for us in that aspect.

Cassy Joy: I’d say so. Wow, that’s great. Really interesting. Are there pros or cons to delivering fresh or frozen? If someone is placing an order?

Walid Abdul-Waham: You know, it’s honestly a preference. At the end of the day, we recommend frozen, because the; you know, you don’t want to drink a whole bottle or like a pint. A lot of people are drinking only 2 to 4 ounces a day. So it’s more like a gut shot than an alternative to replacing your table milk, that you’re putting with your cereal. So it’s not intended to actually pour it in your coffee or that type of stuff. You could, but most people are actually drinking as more of a medicinal supplement gut shot, that’s something that can boost their immune system. So 2 to 4 ounces is pretty much what’s recommended. So if you buy fresh and you’re anticipating you’re going to drink it all within the week, then sure. But a lot of people are buying frozen so they can stop for a few months in the freezer, and they can just take it out, thaw it, and use it as they wish. So that’s more of an economical approach for a lot of people.

Cassy Joy: That makes a lot of sense. I didn’t even think about asking how much volume is recommended of camel’s milk, because I was assuming it was a 1 for 1 cow’s milk. But it makes a lot of sense if you have such a high concentration of healthy fats and vitamins.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, exactly. I mean, we have athletes, like a lot of crossfitters, they would drink a whole bottle because they’re used to the colostrum. They’re used to drinking colostrum and all the nutrient density in that milk, so they’re used to it. There’s nothing wrong with drinking the whole bottle, but you will experience either some sort of diarrhea or die off effect, just because your body isn’t really used to it. And sometimes when that happens, it’s kind of a good sign that the milk is kicking in and releasing a lot of the toxins in your body and just detoxing. So sometimes that’s seen as a really good sign that it’s working. But for majority of the people, if you’re fairly new to camel milk or to the paleo diet or just getting started in the health community, we definitely recommend like 2 to 4 ounces a day is all you need.

Cassy Joy: Got it. So folks can just buy; what’s the volume in which you sell it?

Walid Abdul-Waham: The minimum we have is a pack of 6, and the smallest quantity would be 8 ouncers. So a pack of 6, 8 ounce would be the smallest quantity.

Cassy Joy: Got it.

Walid Abdul-Waham: So that would last them for 4 days, or 5 days.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Awesome. So interesting! And then I just have one more question for you because I’m so curious; I too kind of have a soft spot for the Amish community, I just think they’re wonderful people. What’s been, in working with them, do you have a favorite thing you’ve learned from the Amish?

Walid Abdul-Waham: They’re very, very funny people. They love to crack jokes all the time. They’re never; they’re kind of very laid back. They hate being serious. I’ve never seen any Amish person that’s really serious about their work. It’s just a great experience working with them. We have so many similarities with them. They have a very good hospitality, and that’s something that we can relate to back home, as well. They’re just really great people, and they’re probably one of the best business men I’ve worked with in a while.

Cassy Joy: That’s fabulous; really wonderful. Well I am fascinated by your product; I am going to place an order. I have got to try this out. And I’m fascinated by your story and how you’re bringing it to market. Congratulations on such a really incredible launch. The name of Walid’s company is Desert Farms camel milk. And Walid, did you want to tell folks where they can find you and find your product?

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, you can go on www.DesertFarms.com, and you can place your order. And we definitely want to give your listeners a gift. If you go on our website and you click on the trial pack, and you use the coupon code FREE, you can get that delivered to your door completely free, just pay for the shipping, and you can give it a try, you can taste it and all that type of stuff. I can make sure I email Cassy as well just to make sure everyone has the right information.

Cassy Joy: Wonderful! Well thank you so much. And if you’re driving while you’re listening to this episode and you didn’t get a chance to write that down; don’t worry. As always, I will put links in the show notes to everything and I’ll go ahead and make sure to put in that coupon code. Thank you so much for that, Walid. Folks are really going to like that.

And thanks so much for coming on the show; it was a pleasure talking with you today.

Walid Abdul-Waham: Yeah, I had so much fun. Thanks so much.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, definitely! Thanks for educating all of us Fed and Fit folks about camels milk. I feel very informed {laughs} and very curious. You’ve piqued my curiosity, so thank you so much for coming on the show. And for all of you listeners, like I said, you’ll be able to find the full transcript and links to everything discussed on the show notes at http://FedandFit.com. Thanks so much for listening in. we’ll be back again next week.

   

One Response to “Ep. 92: The Skinny on Camel’s Milk”

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    1
    Malloryposted January 31, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    This is really really freaking interesting Cassy. Thanks for the great information. I want to try some!

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