Saturday, November 1, 2014

Unconventional sources of milk-Are they sustainable?

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), man must diversify the source of milk to meet the increasing demand for this most nutritious food, considered complete in many respects. While Cow and Buffalo are the common sources of milk all over the world, due to many factors the investment on these animals and maintaining them is becoming increasingly cost prohibitive. World production of conventional milk was reported to be around 780 million tons (MT), of which India alone accounted for 141 MT. If per capita availability is considered at the current production level it works out to approximately 600 ml per day, considered to be more than adequate from the nutritional perspectives. Unfortunately statistics never reflect the true ground situation and probably more than half the population, especially in Asia , Latin America and Africa cannot access to adequate quantity of milk due to economic compulsions, their limited income not adequate to be spared for buying this costly commodity at the prevailing prices. Besides milk consuming habit is limited in countries like China, Japan, Korea and other Oriental countries. Still market pundits are fore casting that milk market would grow by 25% by 2025 in some of the emerging economies which in turn is driving the quest for new sources of milk. Here is a take on this issue reflecting the view of the FAO

"Milk from a variety of animals including camels, llamas and moose should be more widely used to counteract high cow milk prices due to growing demand for dairy in the developing world, the UN food agency said on Tuesday. "There is huge scope for developing other dairy species," Anthony Bennett, livestock industry officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome, was quoted as saying in a statement. In a report co-authored by Bennett released Tuesday, the FAO said that alpaca, donkeys, moose, reindeer and yak could also be milked, alongside other species that are already used for milk like buffalo, goat and sheep. It said reindeer and moose milk was high in fat and protein and also contained half the lactose found in cow milk, making it a possible alternative source of dairy for people with lactose intolerance. The report forecast that dairy consumption in developing countries will grow by 25 percent by 2025 as a result of population growth and rising incomes. But it said that milk -- a crucial source of dietary energy, protein and fat -- "will likely still be out of reach for the most vulnerable households". "Governments need to address the issue by making nutrition a specific objective in dairy sector development and by investing in programmes that help poor families keep small dairy livestock," it said. Alpaca and llama and alpaca breeding could provide "a valuable nutritional and economic resource" for people in mountainous areas of South America, it said.The FAO pointed out that camel milk is already prized in Ethiopia, Mali and Somalia and mare's milk is consumed by 30 million people in Russia and Central Asia."

How far milk production from other animals as propounded by the FAO is realistic is a matter of debate. Though these animals can provide probably more nutritious milk how far they can be produced in an organized fashion is unclear. Also not certain is whether for a vast majority of consumers milk from animals other than cow or buffalo can be palatable. What is needed is a concerted effort to encourage consumption of milk by these animals in area/regions where they are already popular.and simultaneously provide scientific inputs to upgrade their genetic quality and productivity. This way pull for milk from conventional sources from these regions can be significantly reduced and milk price is not allowed to escalate uncontrollably in the global market.


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