Throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, donkeys are known as rugged, though stubborn, beasts of burden. But as a source of milk? According to Today's Zaman, the owner of Turkey's only donkey farm wants to get permission from the state to turn his stables into a dairy:
“Donkey's milk is the closest to breast milk and I have applied to the Health Ministry for permission to sell donkey milk for babies whose mothers do not have enough milk to feed them,” says the owner of the only donkey farm in Turkey.
According to an article in the Vatan daily, there is only one donkey farm in Turkey and it is in the northwestern province of Kırklareli. The farm is home to 180 donkeys, 172 of which are female donkeys. The owner of the farm, Ufuk Usta, who is also an instructor at Trakya University's Faculty of Medicine, says the fact that donkey's milk is the closest to woman's milk has been proven by scientists. “In Italy, [people] are allowed to sell donkey milk at markets. We have applied to the Health Ministry for permission to sell donkey's milk,” said Usta, highlighting that cow's milk may cause a baby to develop an allergy to protein. Yet, donkey milk has no such danger and since it is less fatty, it is easier to digest, he noted.
Usta said he examined donkey farms abroad a great deal before he started into the donkey farm business three years. He said that he had heard and read a lot about the benefits of donkey's milk to human health. “During my research, I learned that there are some people in Turkey who own several donkeys and sell these donkeys' milk to other people in their villages or to nearby villages. However, I have found there was not a single donkey farm in Turkey. So, I thought there was an opportunity to start one,” said Usta, adding that finding donkeys in Turkey is a hard job as the number of donkeys in Turkey has dropped to about 250,000-300,000 from about 1.25 million back in 1998. Usta explained the decrease. “Currently, donkeys are used to carry loads of belongings in the summer, but they are not taken care of well in the winter, causing many donkeys to die.”
Farmer Usta may not be totally crazy. Turns out donkey milk has become increasingly popular in Italy, where it is given to children who are allergic to cow's milk. And, according to the Guardian, thanks to some recent positive scientific research, donkey milk may soon be making a comeback in England, where it was a popular item until the late 19th century.
Donkey milk's Turkish debut may hit a snag, though. According to Today's Zaman, since Islam forbids the consumption of donkey, the animal's milk is also considered off limits.