Aungshuman Das Gupta is a veterinary surgeon at a camel dairy farm in the United Arab Emirates, which exports camel milk products to the European Union. He has a Masters degree in veterinary epidemiology and public health from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC)
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Why camel milk?
Camel milk has been sold in supermarkets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for several years and the company recently achieved EU certification to export camel milk. The farm was created after almost 20 years of research into camels and their milk to study its benefits, which have long been known by the Bedouins. Camel milk tastes refreshing and is nutritious. Compared with cow's milk it tastes slightly salty because of the higher content of minerals, but the taste is not as ‘gamey’ as goat's milk. Camels are milked twice in a day like cows, once in the morning and once in the evening. The milk production varies regarding breed and types of animal. In our farm each camel produces an average of seven to eight litres. Individual production can vary from one to 17 litres.
Will we be seeing camel milk on our supermarket shelves in the UK?
The first shipments of camel milk powder, camel whey powder and small quantities of fresh camel milk are being used for sampling and research purposes in Europe, and we are confident we will be able to develop products in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic fields. We are currently not reaching out directly to European consumers with our products. Having said that, Camelicious products are available in the UAE and in Kuwait, where they are popular with the Arab population and expats alike.
Why did you apply for the job?
I had previously worked on herd health projects in Bangladesh and last year I was offered the opportunity to work at the camel farm of Emirates Industries, the largest commercial camel dairy farm in the world. The job gives me exposure to a big stage and, moreover, the leaders of the project are well respected in the field of camel research, so it's a privilege for me to be here.
What are your responsibilities?
As a vet, my responsibility is to ensure the production of best quality milk for human consumption. The milk is used as the prime raw material for several added-value products, including flavoured camel milk, camel milk cheese and camel milk powder used in the production of camel milk chocolate.
To produce camel milk of the right quality we have to make certain that our camels are disease free and in good health and that there is no contamination of the milk. To safeguard this we have our own ISO system that also includes hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), which is a systematic preventive approach to food safety.
We are taking part in the national residue plan of the UAE and we proudly state that our raw milk is free from all chemicals, pesticides, residues, heavy metals, mycotoxins, etc. The bottom line is that we document each and every procedure and event that takes place on the farm to ensure traceability of the raw camel milk, to comply with local and international regulations, including those of the EU.
How has your Masters degree helped in your new role?
My study of herd health management guides my approach to problems such as feeding, mastitis management and the management of calves before and after they are born, as well as disease management of the whole farm. As we are producing high-quality milk for human consumption, the knowledge I gained from studying public health guided my understanding of the systematic preventive approach that is needed in relation to food safety for camel milk production.
The study of risk analysis made me understand why some countries cannot import or export animals or animal products and how the status of the livestock population of neighbouring countries, sharing common borders, influences the livestock policy of a country.
What should anyone thinking of moving to a role in a new sector, or a new country, consider?
They must understand the consequences as well as the challenges in relation to the change they are planning. Coming from Bangladesh, where there are no camels, I needed to learn about working with camels and this could not have been done without the support of my colleagues and superiors.
I found that, moving to a different country and culture, you need to be open and embrace change. You need to respect laws and customs, and understand a new culture with an open heart. It helps if you try not to be judgemental about the changes or new experiences that you face.
To me the key is to keep an open mind and try to embrace whatever comes. It is better to be open to everything, learn how it works, and be a part of the system at first. Only if you are a part of it can you can change it for the better.
▪ Postgraduate programmes offered by the RVC can be studied by distance learning. Further information is available at www.londoninternational.ac.uk/rvc
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