Lauren Brisbane, Chair of the Australian Camel Industry Association
Lauren Brisbane, Chair of the Australian Camel Industry Association, talks about the potential for further development of the camel industry in Australia and about some camel products and the markets for them.
The views, opinions, and other information expressed in these interviews are those of the participants and may not reflect the position of the Australian Feral Camel Management Project.
Interview with Lauren Brisbane – Interview 7:46.
Lauren Brisbane, as Chair of the Australian Camel Industry Association, how are you involved in the Australian Feral Camel Management Project?
Well, I’m a Steering Committee member and I represent the camel industry on the Steering Committee for the National Feral Camel Management Project.
There are lots of things people wouldn’t probably know about feral camels, like for example, camel milk?
Oh, absolutely. Well, the camel in itself is an amazing animal. It’s the oldest pastoral animal on Earth. It’s been used for thousands of years and it provides meat, milk, wool and there are quite a lot of by-products with camels. So the milk is an amazing by-product of camels, it is a whole food in itself and there’s certainly a huge market around the world for it.
I guess as an emerging industry there must be challenges in marketing those products; they are so beneficial but they are new to people?
Certainly in Australia, camel meat is quite new to a lot of people in Australia, but on the world stage no, it’s not; it’s been used and consumed for thousands of years. So there are huge markets for the meat and certainly ones we can’t even keep up to.
And is the market the Middle East or is it wider?
Oh, far wider than that. Canada, the US, UK, Europe. Wherever a lot of Islamic people have moved to in Western society they want their traditional cultural meat, which is camel meat, and those markets are in Western society.
One of the amazing products we’ve heard about is camel milk. What are other properties of camel milk?
Well, camel milk is a whole food in itself and it’s primarily used on a medicinal basis, although you know for thousands of people in rural areas, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, it is the main, stable part of their diet, but it has wonderful properties. It’s half the fat of cow’s milk, it’s got immunoglobulins, it reduces the incidence of diabetes and heart disease, and it’s a really wonderful product being pushed around the world on a consumption basis.
I guess people might have heard of the industry emerging in Australia and there has been talk about abattoirs in South Australia and the Northern Territory. How far progressed are we with that? How long before we see those things emerge?
Well, we’ve got a new player in the market in South Australia, Magdy El Ashram, and he’s looking to be in production next year, in 2012, so that’s going ahead. And of course we’ve got Wamboden here in Alice Springs, they’re still producing and processing camel. And we’ve got another abattoir in Queensland of course, we’ve got Meramist, who processes, halal processes camel.
Now if you had your crystal ball and you look into the future, and the industry has developed successfully, how much of an industry do you see? Do you see plants all over the place? Do you see that industry using a lot of camel product?
I do, I do. I think there is an emerging food security issue around the world and the need for protein is increasing dramatically, and I think that the camel industry will provide a very good second income stream for pastoralists and landowners, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous landowners. So, I see it as a removal basis, the industry sees it as a removal basis, from a feral and down to a managed basis around Australia. I mean camels are used not just in central Australia, they’re actually used around Australia for weed management as well.
You’ve touched on an interesting point there when you talk about a wild population of feral camels. So, will we get to a point where we can actually control the camel problem, the camel situation, by the industry itself?
I think so. I think so. We’ve already got situations now where we can show that camels can be easily managed and the great thing about camels is that they are easily managed from the wild. They’re yard quiet within a week from the wild and they really respond well to management, and, you know, that interaction with man, a kind interaction with man.
One of the things that people might be surprised about is what we’ve been talking about, farming camels, basically a domesticated product. Can you tell us about that?
Well, we have farmed camel in Queensland, well they’re managed camels in Queensland, and there’s about 10 000 managed camels in Queensland, and those primary producers are looking at a second income stream and supplying them to the abattoirs for those emerging farmed camel meat markets.
We’ve talked about some of the good things about the industry, some good things about camel products. What are some of the challenges for the industry as it develops?
I think in any emerging industry there are always challenges. Certainly some of the challenges are developing a very effective transport network, but also those relationships with the Indigenous communities for removal. Training is, certainly there’s a lot of training needed for landowners, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous landowners. They’re just a couple of the issues.
So what we’re saying here I guess is that a fully developed, operational camel industry can play an important role in managing camels in Australia?
It plays an essential role in managing camels in Australia. The camel industry can provide employment for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, it provides a second income stream for primary producers. It is, it needs to be the strongest focus of the whole camel management plan is that it provides employment, because we have the markets but we’ve also got those emerging protein markets around the world. It’s essential that camels are utilised but they’re also, when they’re managed, they’re a great pastoral animal in the arid environment. They’re perfectly suited to this environment, and under managed conditions they’re far more suited to it, so they really adapt to those Indigenous communities and the way that Indigenous communities work, they’re an animal that works well with Indigenous people as well. So the camel can play a huge role in primary industries and Indigenous communities for employment in Australia.