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J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Feb;92(3):445-74. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.4690. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Composition of milk from minor dairy animals and buffalo breeds: a biodiversity perspective.

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Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 00153 Rome, Italy.


A comprehensive review is presented of the nutrient composition for buffalo, mare, and dromedary camel milks at the level of breed, and species-level data for yak, mithun, musk ox, donkey, Bactrian camel, llama, alpaca, reindeer and moose milks. Average values of nutrients were calculated and compared. Interspecies values (g 100 g⁻¹) were 0.7-16.1 for total fat, 1.6-10.5 for protein, 2.6-6.6 for lactose, and 67.9-90.8 for water. Reindeer and moose milks had the highest fat and protein concentrations and the lowest lactose contents. Mare and donkey milks had the lowest protein and fat contents, in addition to showing the most appropriate fatty acid profile for human nutrition. Dromedary camel milk was most similar to cow milk in proximate composition. Moose milk was the richest in minerals, having values as high as 358 mg 100 g⁻¹ for calcium, 158 mg 100 g⁻¹ for sodium and 150 mg 100 g⁻¹ for phosphorus. Interbreed differences of 4 g 100 g⁻¹ were observed in total fat in buffalo, yak, mare and dromedary camel milks. Large interbreed differences were also present in the mineral contents in mare, buffalo and dromedary camel milks. By bringing together these compositional data, we hope to usefully widen the biodiversity knowledge base, which may contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of milk from underutilized dairy breeds and species, and to improved food and nutrition security, particularly in developing countries.


biodiversity; breed; composition; milk; nutrient; species

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