The first milk that comes to mind for many people in North America is milk from dairy cattle. Cow milk is not the only highly nutritious milk choice available, however. Much of the rest of the world gets their milk from other sources, including goats, sheep, buffalo, and even camels.
Milk from goats, in particular, is rising in popularity in the United States. It’s not hard to understand why. Goat milk makes delicious cheeses, less acidic yogurts, a tasty, tangy drink, and is a delight to cook with. For some, its earthy, almost grassy flavor draws them to using goat milk, while others are looking for an easier-to-digest dairy product to replace cow milk.
The nutritional composition of these kinds of milk varies a little from one to another, but the overall amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates are similar. Goat milk has slightly higher amounts of protein and fat than whole cow milk but less lactose and fewer carbohydrates. The fat molecules in goat milk, also known as globules, are smaller than those found in cow milk, making them much easier to digest.
Goat milk also has very different amounts of key vitamins and minerals than cow milk. For the most part, it is packed more tightly with nutrients than cow milk. Both types of milk are typically fortified with vitamin D, but cow milk has more riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B-12 than its goaty alternative.
Goat milk is also an extremely calcium-rich food, with more calcium in a cup of goat milk than in a cup of cow milk. Along with higher concentrations of calcium, it also has more magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin A than cow milk.
Cow milk actually has more iron than goat milk, but minerals like copper and iron may be more bioavailable from goat milk than from cow milk. Studies out of the University of Granada in Spain indicated that the iron and copper might be more easily absorbed from goat milk than from that of cattle, especially for individuals with difficulty absorbing these minerals.
Digestion and Goat Milk
Goat milk tends to be much easier to digest than milk from cows. Not only does it have smaller fat globules, making it physically easier to digest, but it also has fewer of the casein proteins that trigger an allergic reaction to cow milk.
People who are allergic to cow milk are usually reacting to a type of protein in the milk called casein. The casein in goat milk is different enough from that in cow milk that it doesn’t typically trigger allergies to cow milk, though it can trigger allergies to sheep’s milk.
However, those who are intolerant to the lactose in cow milk may want to avoid goat milk. While it has less lactose and is easier to digest than cow milk in general, it still contains a significant amount of the problematic sugar.
It’s important to note that while goat milk is dense with vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages its use, or the use of any non-human milk, as a replacement for infant formula. Goat milk is closer in composition to human breast milk than cow milk is. However, it doesn’t have enough nutritional benefits to serve as a standalone food.
The supply of goat milk has not kept pace with the demand for the product. There aren’t as many goat dairy farms in the United States, and goats produce less milk per milking session. This significantly impacts the cost of goat milk and goat milk products. Dairy products made with goat cheese are often considerably more expensive to obtain than those made with cow milk.
Raw vs. Pasteurized
Before it reaches the grocery store shelves, most milk, goat and otherwise, is pasteurized. This means that it is treated with heat to destroy certain microorganisms that cause both illnesses and spoilage. Proponents of raw milk products state that this process also destroys valuable enzymes and vitamins, kills beneficial bacteria, and denatures the milk proteins, making it a less nutritionally sound product.
Without pasteurization, however, other more dangerous bacteria can grow and develop. According to the CDC, dangerous bacteria are more commonly found in unpasteurized milk than pasteurized milk. Bacteria more widely found in unpasteurized milk includes the types of bacteria that cause Ecoli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter,
You may be able to find raw milk available for sale in the grocery stores of states like Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico. In other states, such as Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia, it is actually illegal to sell raw milk of any sort. In order to legally obtain raw goat milk in some states, you would first have to obtain a goat.
For some individuals, goat milk may provide a suitable alternative to cow milk. It offers essential vitamins and minerals to help support and maintain the body. This is particularly true for people with allergies to cow milk. The proteins in goat milk are less likely to trigger allergies related to cow milk. Goat milk is also more expensive, difficult to find, and may even pose a serious health risk in its raw state.