Two years ago, a University of Southern California student named Walid Abdul-Wahab was visiting his native Saudi Arabia during the holy month of Ramadan when he noticed that everyone seemed to be drinking raw camel’s milk. The beverage is considered to be a favorite of the Prophet Muhammad's, according to Wahab, and during Ramadan, many Muslims try to walk in the Prophet’s footsteps. They might not have many other options: Because of refrigeration issues, the only cow’s milk he could find there was powdered.
Wahab thought the camel’s milk tasted fantastic. Back in the U.S., he was hankering to launch a startup and thought he might be able to popularize the drink among farm-to-fork-obsessed West Coasters.
When it comes to food, he told me recently, “the world follows the U.S., and the U.S. follows California.”
The biggest obstacle was in finding enough camel farmers. There were very few in the U.S., and they were mostly concentrated among the Amish, a segment Wahab calls “entrepreneurial and innovative."
“They are always looking for the new thing in agriculture,” he said. Unfortunately, they are decidedly not always looking for the next new thing in communication technology, so Wahab found it hard to get it touch. He flew to Pennsylvania from Los Angeles and tried to convince the Amish farmers, some of whom already owned camels and used them for Christmas nativity scenes, to start milking the beasts. One farmer told another, and so on. Wahab ended up with a network of seven camel farmers across the Midwest.