Adventures in Cooking with Camel Hump Fat
I first heard about camel hump fat on an Los Angeles-based podcast (of course). The hosts were discussing coconut oil, and the conversation turned to unusual ingredients found at a popular organic grocery store in LA. Eventually, someone brought up camel hump fat. Too intrigued to let it go, I did some googling.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding hump fat. After locating camel milk and hump-fat purveyor Desert Farms’s website and ordering a 14-ounce jar of their “Hump Fat,” I tried to get in touch with someone who could tell me more about the ingredient. I sent an email to the company’s press email address and got no reply. I called the company’s phone number, which was an answering service that eventually directed me to the press office’s line, where I was met with a voicemail instructing me to write to the press email address. No reply. So I engaged Facebook Messenger and asked Dester Farms if I could get someone on the phone to answer a few questions about the fat. The representative I got in touch with eventually gave me a different company email address. The reply I received from a representative at that email address said nothing other than to reach out again the following day. I did, and have not yet gotten a reply.
According to Desert Farms's spinoff website dedicated exclusively to the hump fat, the fat is “rendered using a traditional process that pulls in all of the amazing nutrition and health benefits straight into the jar.” It also lists the fat’s nutritional merits, from Vitamin A to B12 to Omega-3s. It’s gluten-free. It’s Paleo. It’s Keto. The site reads a bit like a diet-plan site, with quotes from celebrity chefs and nutritionists touting the majesty of hump fat.
When the jar finally arrived, I wondered how to taste the hump fat. The back of the label says that it’s “traditionally used for: coconut oil replacement, sweet potato fries, savory eggs, dipping sauce, and everything fried.” I decided to fry an egg in the fat.
A spoonful of fat looked like just like room temperature coconut oil, but smelled meatier, like beef fat. It melted quickly in a skillet, and when I cracked in an egg it sizzled and sputtered. The egg fried normally, but the oil’s gamey smell grew in strength as it heated. A colleague who came into the kitchen said it smelled "like a dog that had been recently cleaned, but still like a dog." Then I remembered I had to eat it.
Ultimately, the fried egg tasted like a fried egg, but it was certainly more slick and rich than an egg fried in olive oil, butter, or even chicken fat. Though the flavor was mostly neutral, the smell was unavoidable. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience.
I still have questions about camel hump fat. I can’t get a straight answer about how the fat is harvested—only that, according to the website, it’s “sourced from wild camels in the Australian desert.” While there are other purveyors of camel milk, Desert Farms seems to be one of the only companies selling hump fat. At this point, I don’t think I would try it again, but as I’ve seen with many popular ingredients in recent years, from ashwagandha to kale, neither flavor nor sustainability have much to do with what makes a “superfood” go viral.