The Sunday Independent

Donkeys get some love in the dairy

Megan Baadjies takes a look at the rising popularity of a new alernative to cow’s milk

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AS A child, I knew and consumed only two kinds of milk – full cream and skimmed milk – and they both came from a cow.

Trends have changed with the increasing popularity of soy, almond, coconut and even insect “milk”.

So it’s not surprising donkey milk should be considered as an alernative to cow’s.

Besides, if scientists could convince us to try cockroach “milk”, then donkey dairy farmers shouldn’t need too much convincing.

Donkey milk (or ass milk) is said to be the next big thing and those who have had it swear by it.

While it may still be a fairly new trend in South Africa, donkey milk has been used and consumed for donkey’s years.

It is said that Cleopatra, the queen of ancient Egypt, would regularly take a bath in donkey milk to keep her skin soft and beautiful.

So if you’ve been taking milk baths and your skin is still a little ashy, chances are you’ve been using the wrong milk.

Donkey milk has become popular in Europe, where it has been used to produce chocolate and even the most expensive cheese.

Foodbev.com reports that Swiss chocolate maker Fornerod has teamed up with Eurolactic­s, a company that sells donkey milk, to make the first donkey milk chocolate bar.

The chocolate is said to be suitable for people who are allergic to cow’s milk and also to have a longer shelf life. The site reports that the idea for the chocolate came about when the chocolate maker wanted to present it to the pope when he visited Rome.

In Serbia, you can sink your teeth into the world’s expensive cheese, made with donkey milk.

Forbes.com says the cheese, known as Pule, costs around $600 per pound (about R18 000 for 1kg) is made from the milk of Balkan donkeys native only to Serbia and Montenegro and requires 25 litres of milk to produce just 1kg.

The Telegraph reports that Serbian tennis champion, Novak Djokovic has bought an annual supply of donkey cheese for his chain of restaurant­s.

Local donkey milk farmer Jesse Christelis said it was only a matter of time before South Africa catches up.

The co-owner of The Donkey Dairy, the first donkey dairy farm in South Africa, he said the milk is “highly palatable” with a natural sweetness.

“It has a really nice taste,” Christelis said.

“It’s very low in fat. It’s like skim milk, but it’s high in lactose so it has a sweet taste. It tastes almost like coconut milk, with an almond after taste.”

Christelis said there were many health benefits.

“We did our research and found in Europe there is quite a big move towards the health benefits of the milk.

“The milk itself has a natural antihistam­ine and a natural antibiotic.

“We’ve had people with asthma and people with whooping cough who have drunk the milk and it has helped them with that.

“There is also a natural antiinflam­matory in the milk as well. It’s good for people with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

“It’s the only milk that contains these properties.”

Donkey milk is also high in vitamin C and it is the closest to human milk, which makes it the best substitute for children who are allergic to formula.

The Donkey Dairy Farm, home to 92 rescue donkeys, produces allnatural beauty products made with donkey milk.

“We’re still quite small and a niche market, but I think it’s a matter of time and then there’ll be a couple more (farms) popping up.

“People are realising how incredible the milk and its health benefits are.”

Suddenly the Afrikaans song, Die Donkie is ’n Wonderlike Ding, takes on a whole new meaning.

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