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China's Camel Milk Industry Flowing with Success

Source: | 2024-05-31 16:02:03 | Author:

A herdsman in Fuhai county throws grass for a camel in his backyard in Altay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Jan 10, 2023. (PHOTO: VCG)

By LIANG Le, ZHU Tong & LIANG Yilian

The third week of May marks China's 10th National Nutrition Week, with a focus on promoting the consumption of vegetables, fruits, milk, whole grains, and soybeans. Today, Chinese consumers are spoilt for choice with the variety of milk options available, especially since camel milk has emerged as a significant player in the dairy stakes.

Since 2016, Xinjiang University and Xinjiang Wangyuan Biotechnology Group have collaborated on groundbreaking research in the camel milk industry. This partnership has led to significant advancements in basic research, production technology, and technical systems, positioning the industry in a space of rapid growth.

Higher protein content

The unique qualities of camel milk were recorded in the Compendium of Materia Medica, one of China's most important traditional books on pharmaceuticals and the Uyghur pharmacopeia.

"Camel milk is rich in natural bioactive factors such as lysozyme, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase and immunoglobulin. It has a higher protein content and more variety than cow's milk," professor Yang Jie at Xinjiang University told Science and Technology Daily.

In 2005, Yang led a team to launch the first camel milk research project in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. They tested the composition of camel milk.

For the most accurate results, in 2007 the researchers employed advanced protein purification equipment and biological separation techniques. They created an extensive ingredient database, isolating and identifying various components.

This research laid a scientific foundation for understanding the effect of camel milk on glucose and lipid metabolism, immune regulation, and overall nutritional value.

Overcoming shelf life challenges

While camel milk is a staple in Middle Eastern diets, it had not become an industry in China primarily due to preservation challenges. Fresh camel milk spoils quickly, lasting only one to two days at room temperature and up to seven days when refrigerated. Chen Gangliang, chairman of Xinjiang Wangyuan Biotechnology Group, explained that no existing domestic or international technology had adequately addressed this issue.

In 2007, Chen Gangliang led the establishment of Wangyuan Camel Milk Industrial Co., LTD., to tackle the preservation technology of camel milk. Initial attempts to adapt milk and fruit preservation techniques failed, mainly due to the resilient bacillus microorganisms in camel milk, which can survive being heated at 100 ℃ for half an hour, or refrigerated at a low temperature for a long period.

After repeated experiments, the research team found that after continuous heating at 135℃ for 15 minutes, the Bacillus can be basically eliminated. However, this process also destroyed many of the milk's bioactive substances.

The team then developed a breakthrough filtration method using a medical-grade biofiltration membrane, which successfully removed the Bacillus without compromising the milk's efficacy. By the 103rd test, they achieved a stable process, leading to the production of camel milk with a shelf life of 180 days at room temperature and camel milk powder lasting up to 18 months.

Upping production

With the industry's formation, new challenges arose, particularly concerning camel breeding. Camels have a long breeding cycle, and yield just two to three kilograms of milk per day on average. To address this, the Xinjiang Camel Industry Engineering Center was established in 2016. The center utilizes advanced genomic and transcriptome technologies to identify high-yield lactating camels.

"At present, we have found high-yield lactating camels with a daily milk [output] of 6.5 kg, and breeding work is underway," said Yang.

This year, the intelligent factory invested by Xinjiang Wangyuan Biotechnology Group Co., Ltd will commence operations. This facility will be capable of producing 200,000 bottles of fresh and sour camel milk daily and processing 100 tons of raw camel milk, making it the world's largest camel milk production enterprise.

Editor: 梁依莲

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