Zasavica natural reserve in Serbia starts producing cheese from donkey milk that costs a thousand euros per kilogram.
ZASAVICA, SERBIA (NOVEMBER 7, 2012 ) (REUTERS) - Zasavica, one of Serbia's most famous natural reserves well known for its populations of beavers and birds, will be famous from now on for its donkey cheese, apparently the most expensive in the world.
The unique cheese made from donkey milk is being produced by the Zasavica reserve's donkey farm, located some 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the Serbian capital Belgrade.
But despite the donkey's reputation as a humble beast, it doesn't come cheap, the price tag is a whopping 1,000 euros per kilogram.
And for extra exclusivity, the Zasavica farm is the only place in the world where donkeys are milked for cheese.
"With these animals - aside from the fact that we are saving them from extinction, as their numbers are at their lowest possible in these areas - we are making certain products which will help their survival, their breeding and acceptance by people," head of Zasavica natural reserve Slobodan Simic said.
The farm is home to around 130 donkeys and jennies (female donkeys) of the Balkan donkey breed.
Females are milked three times a day, in a process that has to be done by hand because donkey-sized milking machines do not exist.
Donkey milk is said to be very healthy for humans. It has anti-allergen properties, contains only one percent milk fat, and is drunk only fresh because precious ingredients get lost if boiled. One of these is vitamin C, which is present in donkey milk in 60 times larger quantities compared to cows milk.
However, since one jenny produces just two decilitres of milk per day, a liter of donkey milk costs around 40 euros. It takes 25 liters of milk to make a single kilogramme of donkey cheese.
Slobodan Simic has been trying for years to organise the successful production of donkey cheese.
"Noone is producing it in Europe or the world, there's no such information and no one would produce it because it would be excessively expensive. In a European context it (the price) would amount to three, four or five thousand euros (per kilogram). But we dared to make such a product, offered at an acceptable price of about a thousand euros, and that makes it the most expensive cheese in the world. There is no cheese as expensive at the moment, nor more valuable, and in such low quantities, as ours," he said.
Simic hopes that very soon Zasavica will start exporting donkey cheese to the United Kingdom, Germany and the rest of the world, and says that Zasavica donkey cheese might become famous despite its top price. Cheese will be sold packaged in 50 gram portions, and will be offered to high-end food shops.
But for people who happen to not like cheese, there's another use for the donkey milk.
Legend says that Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, used donkey milk to bathe in.
Based on current prices, Simic says, a single such bath would cost around 5,000 euros.