The kind of contraband that’s popular in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon these days is a bit different from back when seemingly every talented musician in the country—from Jim Morrison to Carole King—lived in some hillside shack. Last year I was talking about goat’s milk, which my daughter was raised on, with a friend who lives off the fabled road, and she had a story about a scion of Laurel Canyon’s mythmaking generation (who happened to be her neighbor) that was far crunchier and more outright weird than the dairy choice we made for our child.
Forget your run-of-the-mill breast milk or formula—the grandchild of one of the greatest drummers of the 1970s drinks raw camel’s milk, purchased from a source of debatable legality and repute.
All of which could make the idea of anyone drinking camel milk sound like another in the long succession of harebrained health-food schemes that have emanated from Southern California for ages.
But there are legitimate reasons why the well-heeled children of Laurel Canyon are sucking it out of BPA-free bottles—the stuff is really good for you. Camel milk has higher levels of magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than cow’s milk and is lower in cholesterol. It also contains more protein and vitamin C than cow’s milk.
Proponents, including Walid Abdul-Wahab of California’s Desert Farms—which contracts with Amish camel dairies in the Midwest—says it can evem help children who suffer from autism and attention-deficit disorder.
“The anti-inflammatory properties are the major factor that helps improve brain function,” Abdul-Wahab said in an interview with Vice last month. “Anything you consume that’s anti-inflammatory reduces the amount of toxins found in your gut, and reducing those toxins has a clear effect on the brain. It improves function.” He acknowledges that there’s no scientific research to back up that claim.
Still, the combination of superfood gloss and novelty has convinced some people that paying close to $20 for a gallon (camels produce around a third of the milk that a cow can put out in a day) is well worth it.
Establishing a foothold in the Hollywood Hills is a great first step toward becoming a bona fide trend, but with only 5,000 camels in the United States, a very real camel-milk ceiling looms.
Still, in a more arid world, there could be benefits that go far beyond unsubstantiated health claims to fulfilling our thirst for dairy with the milk of an animal that’s famous for its ability to survive the desert heat.