Cows moo-ve over: camel milk coming to Europe

Is Chalav Stam endangered?

The Talmud prohibited the consumption of unsupervised milk of gentile provenance, lest it contain an admixture of kosher and non kosher milk. However, as the codified halakhah also stretched the definition of supervision to include potential supervision (i.e. the Jewish supervisor sits behind a fence and if he would get up, he could see whether the non-Jew was milking a non-kosher animal, e.g. a camel or a mare), therefore, some authorities ruled that milk produced in a farms that have no none kosher animals to milk, is permissible.

Consequently, some Jewish communities have customarily allowed themselves to consume the milk on the general market, since non kosher animals are not customarily milked in Europe.

Now, however, that may be set to change. Reuters UK reports that:

European grocery shelves may soon be invaded by milk from that proverbial ship of the desert, the camel.

An animal famous for bad breath and ill humour might seem an unlikely source of liquid to lubricate a bowl of breakfast cereal or froth up a latte, but promoters from the United Arab Emirates say it is healthy — and almost like mother’s own.

The European Commission recently approved plans for screening camel milk, and will send an EU panel to inspect the UAE’s two dairy farms producing camel milk — Al Ain Dairy, with “Camelait,” and the Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products’ “Camelicious,” found in most UAE grocery stores. (hat tip: SBA)

Will the kosher consumer still be able to argue that milk on the general market is permissible?

The Radvaz is one of the authorities permitting milk produced on a farm devoid of non kosher animals.

In Radvaz’ responsa vol. IV #75, he concludes his permissible ruling with the statement:

The general rule in this matter is that if there is no reason at all to suspect the admixture of prohibited foodstuff, [consupmtion of such milk] is permissible even if there was no supervisor near the herd.

כללא דמלתא דאם אין לחוש כלל לדבר טמא אפי’ שאינו בצד העדר מותר.

From the above, it does seem that the importation of camel’s milk in the West could cause a headache for kosher consumers there.

However, there are two reasons to reject the fear of camel’s milk in the West, for now, at least.

First of all, the main leniency people who consume such milk rely on, is not the Radvaz’, but that which R’ Moshe Feinstein articulated: that the milk supervisor need not be a rabbiniocal agent, nor a Jew, but that the government supervision is sufficient, provided the laws mandating supervision were motivated by health and similar concerns, rather than protection of the kosher consumer. As long as labelling laws will require that camel’s milk be clearly labelled, and as long as the admixture of camel’s milk into cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk remains prohibited, the government supervision will remain valid. Thus, wherever the the government supervision is taken seriously, the kashrut of cow’s, sheep’s and goat’s milk should not be negatively impacted by the importation of camel’s milk.

Furthermore, the Reuters article mentions another useful fact:

But camel milk comes at a price. In the UAE, its costs about 4 dirhams (72 pence) more per litre than cow’s milk.

“Cows produce more milk than our camels — about 50 litres daily, while our camels make 10-15 litres,” Wernery, who is affiliated with Camelicious, said.

“But they developed good dairy cows over many years. We are trying to breed good (camel) milking stock, but it will take some time.”

As long as camel’s milk remains significantly more expensive, there should hardly be any of farmers mixing camel’s into cow’s milk. It took cows several thousand years of cross breeding to come to produce 50 liters a day, even with modern technology, camel’s milk may remain significantly more expensive for a considerable amount of time. Decades or even centuries.

Meanwhile, the quality – and halakhic acceptability – of government supervision should be the only concern.

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4 Responses to Cows moo-ve over: camel milk coming to Europe

  1. […] Cows moo-ve over: camel milk coming to Europe « Rabbi Arie … […]

  2. Avrohom Gordimer says:

    Excellent analysis, Rabbi Folger!

    Best regards,
    Avrohom Gordimer

  3. Cheski says:

    Aren’t we lucky! 😉 But thanks for the interesting post. Something for the Hirhurim site?

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