Cow’s milk has been a staple on the American continent since the Spanish brought the first cattle to Mexico in 1525, and it’s not too hard to see why. Milk has a plethora of uses–from cereal, to cheese, to pancakes and more, milk can be utilized in just about anything. It is, however, not the only option. One far older choice has largely fallen out of vogue in this country, and without real reason: goat milk. Goat milk is just as healthy as its cow-produced alternative, and for homesteaders, keeping goats presents a far less daunting challenge. Here’s how to determine which may be right for your needs.
Similarities Between Cow and Goat Milk
One similarity between cow- and goat-produced milk is that they’re both excellent sources of protein. According to the USDA Food Composition database, a cup of cow’s milk has eight grams of protein, while goat’s milk has a slight edge with nine. Both are also excellent for use in making cheese, ice cream and yogurt. I’m sure the you’re already familiar with the myriad uses and facts about plain cow’s milk, however, so let’s cut to the plentiful differences between the two.
Differences Between Cow and Goat Milk
The main benefit of goat’s milk is its digestibility. While both milks contain lactose, goat’s milk will contain, on average, nine percent less of the sugar than its bovine cousin. This disparity increases even further when cultured into yogurt. Additionally, though goat’s milk is a good bit higher in fat content, the fat molecules which make it up are smaller than those in cow’s milk, making it easier for the system to break up.
Speaking of fats, ever wonder what “homogenized” means on the milk cartons at the store? Non-creamline cow’s milk, before it is sold, is thoroughly mixed and pressurized to create an even consistency. If left sitting for a while, you can see the fats separate out, as the cream floats to the top. Goat’s milk, on the other hand, homogenizes naturally, with an even consistency throughout. This means goat’s milk will never separate, no matter how long it sits.
Almost everyone has seen the now ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign which proliferated throughout the 1990s. A key component of these advertisements highlighted milk as an excellent source of calcium, an important factor in bone strength and health. It turns out the campaign really should have been pushing goat’s milk, however, as goat’s milk is far higher in calcium than regular cow’s milk. Whereas cow’s milk contains 275-300 milligrams of calcium per cup, goat’s milk comes in at a whopping 330, again according to USDA numbers.
With such benefits, it’s almost no wonder roughly 65 percent of the world partakes of goat’s milk. So why is it not more popular in America? That probably comes down to the final main difference: taste. Whereas cow’s milk has the smooth, creamy taste generations of Americans have come to know and love, goat’s milk can vary widely, as its flavor is largely dependent on the butterfat content of the milk. A Toggenburg goat, on one end of the spectrum, will have around a three percent butterfat percentage–this will generally taste more watery and earthy than a standard cow-milk drinker is accustomed to, and may take some getting used to. A Nigerian Dwarf, on the other hand, whose butterfat percentage sits around 6.1 percent, will produce a milk almost indistinguishable in taste from a cow. Nubians, whose percentage sits in between, around 4.6 percent, are a very common breed, and an excellent compromise between flavors.
If these sound like appealing qualities, goats may be an excellent addition to your homestead. Check back soon for a forthcoming series of articles on how to raise, house and otherwise care for these endearing, yet often cantankerous critters.
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”