Can Karachi’s camel milk shake the medical world?

Published: January 14, 2012

Wondermilk is simply packaged in several flavours in a home operation. The Jahangirs have been trying to win aid. NGO What Took You So Long has approached them for their film “Hot Chocolate for Bedouins”. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR

KARACHI: International campaigns are pushing the idea that camel milk is the world’s next super food and a small venture in Karachi is doing its bit to sell, promote and expand the consumption and distribution of the product.

Wondermilk, founded by Ambreen Jahangir and her daughter Sarah, was inspired by Ambreen’s lactose-intolerant husband’s quest to find an alternative to regular milk. “He started by Googling information about camel milk,” she told The Express Tribune. “He then found camel herders, bought it directly from them and started drinking two to three glasses a day.” She admitted being initially turned off by the idea.

But then, after her husband continually insisted she try it out, the diabetic Ambreen read up on the milk’s nutritional potential and gave it a try. “After drinking it regularly, I had my blood sugar level checked and surprisingly it had decreased,” she said. (Editor’s note: Please consult your physician before making any decisions if you have a health condition).

Ambreen says that one quart of camel’s milk can contain up to 45 units of insulin, and as a result many of Wondermilk’s customers are people with diabetes. She has also received requests from people with other conditions such as autism and cancer. “Many parents of autistic children are buying this milk because their bodies tend to reject a lot of other foods,” she said. “We have even heard reports of it helping in behavioural changes.” No independent local research was, however, available to back these claims.

For now, the simply packaged product’s revenue is going straight to the herders. The Jahangirs are not making a profit and are simply running it as “more of a service”. The milk is pricey, more than an average consumer can afford at Rs150 for 250 ml. But patients who will regularly consume it get a customised discount. It comes in flavours such as chocolate, strawberry, ice-cream soda, and coffee.

The Jahangirs have been trying to win aid and grants from international NGOs for their venture and the NGO What Took You So Long has approached Wondermilk to include them in their film documenting camel milk around the world, “Hot Chocolate for Bedouins”.

The entire operation works out of the Jahangir home and the milk is taken straight from the herders. The herders wear disposable gloves, the udders are washed, and sterilised steel buckets are used. No heat can be used in the process and the milk is neither pasteurised nor does it go through a process of homogenisation in order to retain the nutrients. The Jahangirs claim it has thrice the amount of Vitamin C than regular milk. Wondermilk employs a camel vet as well.

According to different online reports, camel milk contains nutrients that help battle anaemia, osteoporosis, allergies, auto-immune diseases, autism, Crohn’s disease and the side-effects chemotherapy.

Baloch camels in Pakistan are the most prized camels in Pakistan, according to the Jahangirs and buyers from the Middle East regularly come to buy them. Unlike cows, only camels that have recently given birth, can be milked. Out of a herd from 20 to 100 camels at times only a few may be able to produce milk. But the yield is high, as high as 40 litres a day, compared to that of cows.

The milk doesn’t curdle, so yoghurt cannot be made from it but cheese can be made, albeit in a difficult process. The Jahangirs have, however, managed to make a delicious mousse and are selling a kheer (rice pudding) made from camel milk.

Wondermilk is delivered through Khadim online and customers can also pick it up themselves. Another Jahangir family member will be opening a bakery in the coming days that will stock also Wondermilk’s products.

Aside from the nutritional aspects, Wondermilk says there are cosmetic properties to the milk as well. “It has slimming properties and a low percentage of fat, varying from 1.8% to 2%. It also is great for your skin because it includes natural lanolin,” says Ambreen.

When asked why camel milk hasn’t caught on in larger markets like the US, Sarah say that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it so far allegedly because of pressure from big business. Whether this is the truth behind the matter, nomadic tribes around the Middle East and the sub-continent have been consuming camel milk for centuries, and it still remains an untapped market.

An FAO report on camel milk states, “the prejudice against the camel stems from a misconception that it is of low economic value and is synonymous to under-development.” For those who can afford it, this perspective will have to be altered before this product can be milked for all it is worth.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (50)

  • You Said It
    Jan 14, 2012 - 8:42AM

    According to different online reports, camel milk contains nutrients that help battle anaemia, osteoporosis, allergies, auto-immune diseases, autism, Crohn’s disease and the side-effects chemotherapy.

    What reports? While one can understand the justification for selling/consuming camel milk, it is inappropriate to publish an unsubstantiated claim about curative properties of a product that is at best dubious. Such reporting can mislead an unaware reader and may even cause potential harm.

    Recommend

  • H
    Jan 14, 2012 - 9:36AM

    I wonder who else drank Camel Milk.. Looks back 1400 years ago =)

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  • abdul jabbar
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:10AM

    why don’t we declare ourselves the ‘Arabic republic of pakistan” and get it over with for once.

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  • salma aftab
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:16AM

    So,are we supposed to blindly copy everything the arabs do? the last time i checked pakistan was a south asian country,not an arabic one.

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  • Zafar
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:32PM

    Guys, If its good there is nothing wrong in using it. Be it Arabic or Ethiopian.

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  • Zeeshan Ummaid Ali
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:34PM

    if its not pasteurized then what about the harmful bacteria. Animals arent even vaccinated here.

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  • Zeeshan Ummaid Ali
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:35PM

    @salma aftab Arabs drink water too, would you stop drinking that? Recommend

  • John B
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:35PM

    Please do not drink the camel milk (any animal milk) without boiling twice. Like cattle, camel milk also carry Tuberculosis bacteria, and invariably all camels raised nomadically are sub clinically positive for tuberculosis.

    I dont know all the miraculous properties of camel milk. However, please do not believe that “one quart of milk contains 45 units of insulin” and think that it will help in controlling diabetes.

    Insulin is a polypeptide (protein) hormone and the acidity of the stomach will denature the purported insulin in the milk. That is why we still take insulin via injections.

    Boiling the milk also denatures the purported insulin.

    As far as lactose tolerance, yes, it can help since the lactose content of different kind of milks are different.

    There are lofty unsupported unscientific claims of camel milk here and ET should be careful in disseminating the information of public health importance.

    Besides these criticisms, the entrepreneurship is a brilliant idea and their is a niche market.

    Camel milk is definitely better than Soft drinks !

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  • Naumann Malik
    Jan 14, 2012 - 12:35PM

    I don’t understand why people on this board hate Arabs. Oh I get it they are the moderate enlightened silly people.

    I live in an Arab country, & guess what they have been drinking this for 1400+ years now. And when someone introduces camel milk into Pakistan, we already have people crying over race.

    Change can come in Pakistan when we start to learn the difference between right & wrongRecommend

  • Bangladeshi
    Jan 14, 2012 - 2:25PM

    Unbelievable, How can people have this much prejudge against Arabs and that too muslim PAKs. In islam a Arab is not greater than an nonarab & non arab is not greater than an arab. All human beings are equal. Stop following the west in everything you do. If you have a problem
    with ISLAM don’t follow it but don’t entice racial hatred. Its a pathetic thing to do.

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  • Bangladeshi
    Jan 14, 2012 - 2:31PM

    @salma aftab: IF you consider yourself a muslim than race & ethnicity becomes irrelevant. I
    consider myself a muslim first and my national Identity comes second.Recommend

  • Akhtar
    Jan 14, 2012 - 2:46PM

    ET, please do more responsible reporting! Your news will be taken at face value & we pakistanis, have a herd mentality. Like goats following the leader goat, all the people will start drinking camel milk without knowing the harmful effects. Now I bet wonder milks guys will put hoardings of ET newsprint and sell. Pakistanis who can’t read English will think its the god’s word.

    In ET, you haven’t discussed the risks of camel milk.Recommend

  • Wondermilk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 4:12PM

    John B, I appreciate your vote of confidence on the venture, however our facts & figures are not made up at all. We have the support of many camel milk business owners, vets, research scientists and enthusiasts from around the globe. All information collected is via their research papers including the FAO. The vets who have conducted the research for the FAO are ones we are personally in touch with.

    We are never going to just glorify false data, as our main aim is to get Pakistanis on board to drink camel milk and secondly to empower this forgotten community.

    For further details/reports we’ve posted on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wondermilkfresh

    and if anyone has any specific queries on the milk please feel free to contact us at info@wondermilk.info

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 4:43PM

    This is nothing but all new marketing strategy, People of middle east Does Drink this MIlk Daily, But they also fall ill, Dont they?

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Sorry to see comments made that are biased against camel milk. I have developed camel dairy farms. products from camel milk and use of camel milk to treat diseases. There are many data explaining what the components are that allow camel milk to cure a variety of diseases. This is no hocus pocus but substantiated facts.

    The ignorance of the persons attacking camel milk as belonging to Arabs is nonsense, as I am far from being an Arab. Camel milk has cured many diseases all over the world, conquering the bias against the milk. – see my web-site.

    I am not surprised that certain people do not accept camel milk as a functional food or an alternative medicine but please note that your neighbors from India have an history and now a venture for using camel milk. Pakistan could become an important camel milk center if/when the bias is countered.

    I can always hope that drinking camel milk will cure the stupid, unfounded remarks about camel milk – a gift from God.

    Prof. Yagil

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  • Wondermilk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 5:09PM

    and Wondermilk will not be putting hoardings, as we are not a profit making business.
    Anyone is welcome to do their own research on Camel milk and make an educated decision.

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 5:38PM

    This is purely a work of PR agency promoting the wonder milk Products, or why Should the news paper bother about printing this news and and offical employee of wondermilk replying to this. i am a regular reader of this paper but now a days the standard of news have gone down due to this paid news

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  • (Sarah)Wondermilk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 5:51PM

    Sabrina, we are a home based business and our “PR” and “design” is also purely home-based – done by family members. We are NOT a commercial entity. People need to stop with the negativity because sadly that is whyy our nation does NOT progress. We are all too quick to shoot down the other. If you cannot get on board then it’s best you step aside and let those who want to make a difference, make one.

    We’re humbled by Express Tribune doing a piece on our business which is NOT and I repeat NOT a money making business. Every single penny earned goes to the camel herders. not a dime is spent from Wondermilk earnings on marketing/promotion/anything.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:00PM

    In Dubai first its got start it by one guy from i guess germany he tried to make a chocklate out of it and its got good reply from germany and some other countries and mani reason was also its work for Diabeties and its affectivness on insuline of person and now they trying to do in busniss level because camel milk is not like cow or black baffalo in quatity so they have to raised more camel and they are trying to increase the milk production by giving some medicine to camel and i have tried its milk its little bite salty and thick but testy and one more thing camel meat does not have any cholestrol its a research conducted by some doctors in dubai.

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  • (Sarah)Wondermilk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 6:27PM

    The Avocet Group is the family based team behind setting up Camelicious & Al’Nassma chocolates in Dubai. David Wernery, Renate Wernery and Ulrich Wernery. Who have also been amazingly supportive of our venture and helped guide us a lot.

    she-Camels already give a high quantity of milk (especially in the first couple of years after giving birth) and in 4th and 5th year it comes down to about 6.5-7 liters a day.

    As we are extra careful in providing completely unadulterated milk to our customers we don’t work or take milk from the select herdsmen who hormone induce the quantity of milk flow.

    Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) personally recommended the milk over 1000 years ago, so if you don’t believe in scientific research you could believe in that!

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  • Aamina
    Jan 14, 2012 - 7:39PM

    Highly disappointing to see such comments. Clearly shows that our nation has much to learn and be educated on.

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 7:51PM

    Reading these comments, it is unfortunate to me to see all the bickering and back-stabbing going on. It’s bad enough in this country – I see it’s not much different overseas either. Why people with absolutely nothing useful to say and with no knowledge of the subject in question believes they need to join a discussion is incomprehensible as far as I am concerned.

    If you know nothing about the subject at hand, sit back, read it and store it away for future use. If the time ever comes again when the subject arises in your circle of friends or family you can now be a contributing member to a conversation.

    I am slightly familiar with the product because I am very familiar with food allergens. Camel milk has come across some of my customer’s attention several times before. Because of a difference in the milk protein itself, yes, many of the people I have conversed with have said they can tolerate camel milk when cow’s milk is totally off-limits.

    Again though, every single person is an individual. All of our body’s, digestive systems etc. are also different. You can not assume because two people have a dairy allergy, one drinks camel milk therefore it is safe for the other. I don’t care if it’s being used for weight control, diabetes, food allergies or any other medical condition.

    If your main concern is drinking milk for pleasure and you enjoy it’s many purported health benefits, drink it, enjoy it and pass along the information about it to a friend. They may also learn to take your suggestion, give it a try and become a loyal fan also. This is the best marketing strategy in the world. Absolutely no cost to anyone.

    Good luck to this family in their new venture. Starting a small business is a lot of time, a lot of work, with very little rewards. You’ve already figured that part out. Have some patience and hang in there. Word of mouth from satisfied customers will be your best marketing policy, one which you don’t even have to pay for, monetarily that is.

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  • Saudirules
    Jan 14, 2012 - 9:30PM

    Ambreen says that one quart of camel’s milk can contain up to 45 units of insulin, and as a result many of Wondermilk’s customers are people with diabetes

    For arguments sake, even if the milk contains 45unit of Insulin (which it cant/doesnt),once you drink it the stomach acid will destroy/digest insulin just like any other protein, hence it wont be effective.
    PS: that is why people inject insulin and not drink it!! Recommend

  • (Sarah)Wondermilk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 9:39PM
  • Love PAK
    Jan 14, 2012 - 10:01PM

    Indians are already using it

    see this

    Jodhpur district is commonly known for keeping camels and might have been consuming camel milk in their diet. It is reported in literature that camel milk consumption may be responsible for reduction of the occurrence of Diabetes in the Raika community which is
    researchable issue. With this aim present study was conducted in Raika community comprising of 258 individuals from two villages viz. Mongra and Bhatinda of Jodhpur district, Rajasthan. The data was collected for demographic and general information regarding possession of camel along with the usage of camel milk and diabetes. Nearly 27 percent of the Raika community kept She – camel but consumption of camel milk by the Raika community was less (18.6 %) and consuming low quantity. No individual was found to be suffering from Diabetes whether they were consuming or not consuming camel milk and observed almost negligible (0.6 %) symptoms of diabetes i.e. polyurea, polydepsia and
    polypepsia. Still there is a dilemma demanding more research work in this direction.

    This report is From DMRC (Desert Medicine and Research Center, Jodhpur)

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  • Jan 14, 2012 - 10:03PM

    Camel milk is good but this reads like an advertisement to me.

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  • MM
    Jan 14, 2012 - 10:03PM

    Dear readers, as with all articles on health, may we strongly recommend that you consult a physician before making any decisions. In fact, for any reader who actually read the story, they’d see that I included that note in the edit. As journalists we try to spread information and leave it up to the reader to make a decision for themself.
    Mahim Maher
    City Editor

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  • Infectious Disease Doc
    Jan 14, 2012 - 10:47PM

    Selling unpasteurized milk (of any kind) to an unsuspecting public is nothing short of criminal, given the potential biopathogens the consumer can be exposed to. I can assure you that you will never find any infectious disease specialist in favor of this. The Express Tribune has done a great disservice to its readers by publishing this.Recommend

  • BS.Detecter
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:21PM

    Some indians above and some enlightened liberals are quick to brush it off just because its used in Arab world. wow

    talk about educated illiterates

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  • i heart camel milk
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:32PM

    To all the skeptics, I know the family really well and know how hard they’ve been working to promote and educate people about the milk. Never have they made any false claims or misguided any customer and are more than eager to speak about it in detail should u ask for more information.

    The internet is an open place for you to read up on all the research done around the world on camel milk, don’t just put it down to be vicious, it’s very unbecoming of the allegedly educated percentage.

    Personally I commend ET for giving a chance to wondermilk or rather CAMEL MILK in general. Perhaps this is a start to encourage others to get on board

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  • RajX
    Jan 14, 2012 - 11:46PM

    “Hot Chocolate for Bedouins” :-)

    So it’s not just Pakistanis who think they are Arabs. Now even some non Arab foreign NGO’s think that people of Karachi are Bedouins.

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  • Chaman
    Jan 15, 2012 - 1:21AM

    Cow’s milk also contains insulin which is bovine and research has shown that humans can develop an immune reaction to it causing diabetes.

    So camel milk’s insulin may actually increase the chance of getting diabetes by also causing an autoimmunity to develop and destroying the pancreatic B cells.

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  • Chaman
    Jan 15, 2012 - 1:34AM
  • Jan 15, 2012 - 5:04AM

    Milk is serious business.

    In Ontario, a guy fought a trial against the government for having a co-op for non-pasteurized raw milk.

    In India a recent government report highlighted how the ‘Doodh wala’ wasn’t only cheating customers but also poisoning the health of children, in some cases fatally, by adding unclean water and other foreign dangerous substances.

    Over here they already have lactose-free milk products, simply adding the lactase enzyme, and other milk alternatives, like soy (I hate soy). I didn’t recall such products back in the Gulf, at least more than a decade ago. Even further back, late 80′s/early 90′s, I remember a sick new born sick that couldn’t drink her own mother’s milk and needed special milk ordered from France.

    Bought and drank a small bottle of camel milk from a supermarket in the Gulf few years back…don’t remember what company. Did not enjoy it. Camel meat on the other hand is tasty.

    If there’s a market, then there’s a market….good for the family. Besides the market in the Middle East, I’m sure they could try Arab or Desi stores in Europe and North America.

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  • Jan 15, 2012 - 8:20AM

    Its disgusting to see our liberal folks opposing camel milk just because drinking it is (supposedly) an Arab tradition. This is racism.

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  • Dr. Danisch
    Jan 15, 2012 - 9:43AM

    Entrepreneurship and Innovation including “New Product Market Penetration” in emerging markets should be congratulated without any doubt. Best of luck to the family for taking on this venture. Negative comments and comparisons should be ignored; some of the most controversial ideas have emerged as billion dollar companies in the “gold standard” first world. Furthermore even if the business is a FOR PROFIT business and even if they are employing PR methods via the newspaper, there is nothing wrong with it, as both are within the parameters of business ethics and entrepreneurship law(s). Congratulations and best of luck to the company!

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  • narayana murthy
    Jan 15, 2012 - 10:28AM

    This is super interesting.

    We in India should explore this too.

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  • Haseeb Khan
    Jan 15, 2012 - 1:13PM

    I appreciate your efforts, ad I don’t want to be negative about it. But every new thing should and does go through this process of criticism before it gets approved by the society.
    My concern is that if according to the claims, one quart of camel milk contains up to 45 units of insulin and therefore it cures Diabetes, then the normal population should suffer from hypoglycemia (low-sugar, a dangerous medical emergency) after drinking this milk.

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  • Haseeb Khan
    Jan 15, 2012 - 1:15PM

    I appreciate your efforts, ad I don’t want to be negative about it. But every new thing should and does go through this process of criticism before it gets approved by the society.
    My concern is that if according to the claims, one quart of camel milk contains up to 45 units of insulin and therefore it cures Diabetes, then the normal population (non-diabetics) should suffer from hypoglycemia (low-sugar, a dangerous medical emergency) after drinking this milk.

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  • Jan 15, 2012 - 10:14PM

    my ordinary glucose level is 110 mg, if i take this milk with 45 insulin units, i will fall dead on the street in front of this shop.

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  • Sarah (Wondermilk)
    Jan 15, 2012 - 10:26PM

    Gulzar, there are 52-54 units of Insulin in one QUART of camel milk. One quart is approximately 950 ML i.e. almost one liter of milk. and it is not pure Insulin, it is an Insulin-like PROTEIN in the milk.

    Like I have repeated earlier in the comments, and should’ve been mentioned in the article – is that we are NOT challenging the medical world at all, but instead want support from the medical world in order to conduct research in labs and get some local proof, we have tons of international studies/reports/research to base this claim on but would love nothing better to get it done here too.

    Also, we’re not Hakims or doctors to be advising anyone, ANY customer who has come to us to buy the milk for whichever disease/medical ailment, has come through the reference of someone who knows of camel milk. a few have even come from abroad with the reference of their doctors and found us on facebook.

    In the end this is in it’s experimental stages in Pakistan, anyone who would like to help us conduct research and studies is welcome to get in touch.

    and please note Camel milk is said/proven to REDUCE the Insulin medication up to 30%

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  • Lazarus
    Jan 16, 2012 - 10:55AM

    NGO selling dairy products for non-profit :/

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  • Chaman
    Jan 16, 2012 - 1:17PM

    what is being said about the diabetic benefits of camel milk is completely medically unethical.

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  • bhoka nanga
    Jan 22, 2012 - 10:00AM

    on one hand they keep repeating WE DONT CHARGE ANY PROFIT ON THAT

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  • bhoka nanga
    Jan 22, 2012 - 10:01AM

    for 150 a bottle..dont u think its highway robbery….and still you say you are not charging any prfits….man…how much are the overheads.

    god forbis..if u planned to charge profits…what pricee it will be for….1000 a bottle..?

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  • Sarah (Wondermilk)
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:34PM

    we’re done catering to negative, silly comments. No one is forcing anyone to purchase it, if you don’t want to get on board please step aside and let us carry on our cause.

    cheers

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  • bhoka nanga
    Jan 23, 2012 - 7:16PM

    asking how come plain unprocessed camel milk, directly obtained from herds without any middlemen, no overheads and no profits woudl still cost 150 a bottle of 250 ml..

    that was a simple enough question, nothing silly or irrelevant in it.

    not able to clear such stuff tells alot….like NGOs who say they are doing coumnity service yet all they do is get salries and benefits from donnors.

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  • Sarah (Wondermilk)
    Jan 23, 2012 - 7:34PM

    We’ve answered all the questions on our facebook page, time and time again.
    Mashallah we don’t need to rip people off, we live a humble life. I know it’s hard to believe anyone doing something that is not at least 80% selfish, but we are giving every penny to the camel herders.

    The reason it is 150 per 250 ML bottle i.e. Rs. 500 per liter is simply because

    This is a precious resource, valuable.
    Because of it’s value, why should the camel herders sell themselves short? they sell the milk for Rs. 100-150 a liter and they get back Rs. 500 per liter
    It is not easy finding a milking she-camel, especially ones that have hormone induced milk (some herders do that to increase milk flow)

    We provide hygienic milk, as that is vital for the camel milk business to get people on board. You’re more than welcome to buy it from the herdsmen!

    hope that clarifies your question(s)

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  • bhoka nanga
    Jan 24, 2012 - 6:57AM

    hmm..now that makes sense…appriciate your answering it…clears alot…thanks sarah

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  • Sarah (Wondermilk)
    Jan 24, 2012 - 9:59AM

    slight error in my above text: “especially ones that DON’T have hormone induced milk”
    as that can pose to be dangerous. Especially to patients buying it

    and you’re welcome!

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