Friday, September 10, 2010

Goat Milk v. Cow Milk: A Raw Showdown

No, I'm really not trying to pick a fight. Both are good. And if you have a reliable source that you feel is safe, I encourage you to try it raw. You know, like they drank it for the last 6,000 years or so, before the Industrial Revolution. But is there a difference between milk from a goat and milk from a cow? And is one better than the other?

I used to think goat milk was something from another planet. In fact, I must have been in my 30's, at least, before I even heard of anyone drinking goat milk! But then again, I grew up where there were plenty of cows. And I use to judge dairy cattle. How in the world did I miss out on the fact that you could milk a goat? Does that tell you something about the American bias towards goats? The rest of the world must think we're a bit strange since goat milk internationally is by far more popular.

If you were just to drink a glass straight up, you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference in taste... much. Some cow milk is a bit richer because of the butterfat content, but some goats give milk with a nice butterfat, too. Nubians for one (around 5%), and some La Manchas (3.9%). And of the dwarf varieties, Nigerians (anywhere from 6 -10%). A lot of factors will determine the butterfat content, so one can't be dogmatic about the amount. Just know it's typically higher in some breeds than others and cows aren't the only ones that have a nice butterfat content.

Cow milk in it's raw state is not homogenized, which means the fat globules are rather large and it causes the cream to separate from the rest of the milk. When milk is homogenized, the fat globules are broken into smaller particles, thus making it more uniform throughout. The problem with this is the concern that when milk is homogenized (fat globules broken up) it causes arteriosclerosis or other health issues when consumed over a period of time. Left unhomogenized, the fat globules are too large to cause a problem to begin with. If you were to drink the cow milk raw, you could avoid this issue by just shaking the container each time before you pour it out. Then you get some of both the milk and the cream.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Goat milk, however, is naturally homogenized because the fat globules are inherently smaller. This would seem to be a problem except that it lacks a fat-agglutinating protein called euglobulin, which if present, would cause the fat globules to cling to one another and build up. Instead, the smaller fat globules remain suspended throughout the milk itself and thus, is a plus for the goat milk and explains why it's easier for some to digest it. While cow milk does contain euglobulin, I suspect this protein may explain why it's easier to make butter from cow milk rather than goat (just guessing here). 

Just a side note... when milk is homogenized by mechanical means, breaking down the fat globules, the enzyme xanthine oxidase is freed. This enzyme penetrates the intestinal wall, going into the bloodstream, and eventually, the heart and arteries causing scar tissue as well as generating cholesterol in the body. 

Oh, that's not good. 

Another point for raw milk.

But we're talking goats and cows here. 

Both milks in their natural, raw state contain the lactase enzyme which allows many with lactose intolerance to "tolerate" raw milk whether it's from a cow or a goat. Once it's pasteurized, the lactase enzyme is destroyed and those without enough lactase enyzyme in their own system will know it shortly after consumption. 

If we were to compare fat, proteins, calcium, vitamins and such contained within each milk, most feel there just isn't enough of a difference to haggle over. And given the fact that during the animal's lactation period those components won't remain constant it makes it hard to compare them. However, at the University of Granada in Spain, they've apparently been doing some research comparing the two and they're favoring the goat milk. According to their experiments and analysis, "... goats' milk could help prevent diseases such as anemia and bone demineralization. Goats' milk was found to help with the digestive and metabolic utilization of minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium." (Science Daily, June 31, 2007). It seems the bioavailability of these minerals is higher in goat milk than in cow.

At this point, I'm thinking that both are pretty good for you if you're consuming them raw. But I'm definitely feeling like there may be some benefits to the goat milk that I hadn't realized before. It's certainly given me a new appreciation for it. And when I get my own does to milk, I suspect I'll be a bit partial just because they're mine. 

                                           Photo Credit of Milk Bottle: Search Yogi


  1. Good post, very informative.

    We have goats, I do not milk them at this point. Perhaps down the road :O).

    Hope this doesn't post twice the first try had issues LOL :O)

  2. Great Post!!!! I have the dream of my very own milking goats one day too!! But in the mean time I am researching and reading blogs like this one to help me when I finally take the plunge and get me a couple of goats...Thanks

  3. I so wish we could be a family of goat milk drinkers. We have plenty of space to keep goats. However, we can not get passed the goatey smell and flavor of the milk. We don't even like the flavor of goat milk cheese.

    1. Goats are very clean animals-at least the females. If you don't have a billy goat you shouldn't have a problem with odor as long as they aren't too close to your house.

    2. It's really too bad you feel this way. When I was very young I was allergic to cow milk but not goat milk. We couldn't afford it very often so it was a real treat for me. In those days, (late 40's) we didn't have all the milk substitutes that are available today; most of the time I had to drink a truly horrible soy product.

    3. I've started using goal milk since our state government (SD) has made it nearly impossible for the Raw Milk farms to produce and sell do to treating their product as though it was pasteurized milk. However, the lady who provides raw goat milk tells me it's a matter of how fast the goat milk is cooled and kept cold that determines the taste. That which I use now taste to me like raw cow milk.

  4. I have always been a cow's milk girl, mostly because I too didn't know about goat's milk. That is UNTIL I became lactose intolerant. I was drinking Soy milk, but it's so darn expensive! So I turned to getting a Nubian goat. My oldest son threw a fit and said it was gross. I did a "taste test" for him. He just KNEW that the one was goat's milk because it tasted so weird... Well, that weird on was the grocery store bought cow's milk.

    I have never tried raw cow's milk, so I cannot tell you about that, BUT my family enjoys our goat's milk, and when there isn't enough to go around, and someone has to buy the grocery store milk, they get all disappointed. They consider goat's milk a real treat!

    Unfortunately in our state, you can only consume it yourself. SO if you do raw, you can't purchase it ANYWHERE. So we have one goat, and one on the way that we are milking! And we really do enjoy it!

  5. Thank you so much for this informative post! We love raw milk and even took our kids to Capital Hill to "lobby" for small farms, raw milk and less regulation. We'd all be so much healthier if we could eat closer to the source...

  6. Amy, thank you so much for sharing this info here... it comes at a good time for us. We are in the process of deciding whether to go the dairy cow route or the dairy goat route. This certainly helps! I'm leaning toward the goats now. Blessings!

  7. You are right when you say raw, in either animal, is better. But we are goat milk drinkers. As a former city girl, I thought goat milk must be disgusting. But now we milk our own and it is so similar in flavor (like you said, except the fat) to cow's that we don't think a thing about it. Thanks for the post. Very informative. Lisa~

  8. This is a fight worth picking you know!
    I currently have 3 nubians and I love my goats! I love their milk. My son, my mom and I love it raw, my husband insists he prefers cows milk ( i might have to get him a jersey cow to milk for christmas! hmmm that is worth some thought). The thing I like best about goats is they leave a smaller *hoof*print on the earth. They consume less in proportion to the volume of milk they produce and require less space. I live in Canada and it is illegal here to sell raw milk. I am truly dissappointed that the highest demand around here is for dog breeders and farmers whose animals thrive on goats milk ( and not so much on cows). Think how healthy our human babies could be....
    The biggest hurdle and I think you mentioned it before in you posts is the mis-information out there about raw milk. Thank you for taking a stand!

  9. Mrs. Trixi, if you are getting a strong goaty smell and taste, it's most likely due to where the goat is in it's lactation cycle or how fresh the milk is. If you get fresh, raw goat milk closer to the time it has freshened (just had a kid), then you won't taste ANY goaty flavors. Start drinking it at that point and months down the road, when it's hormone levels are changing and creating just a hint of this aroma, your family will be sold and have grown accustomed to it so slowly, they'll hardly notice it.

    Deana, have you heard of miniature jersey cows? You need to look into them. They leave a much smaller "hoof" print, like you said and I believe they require less feed than a standard jersey. I have been considering one for our own family.

  10. Hi Amy, Here's a great link with a nutrient comparison chart.
    Another "hot" topic is between the A1 & A2 milks. Goats are A2 and most American cow breeds are A1. If I understand correctly the A1 & A2 is the casein protein in the milk. Most of the "old world" cows are A2 but our new bigger producing cows in America are A1. Many people with casein allergies are allergic to A1 milk. For me, that's why I choose goats milk due to my casein allergy and it being A2. However our new calf will be 1/2 old world jersey and 1/2 standard jersey. If we chose to keep her we'd continue to breed her back to the old world mini jersey.

  11. Diane, that's a great chart! And thank you for the excellent information on the A1 and A2 animals. This is so fascinating. I had been considering a miniature jersey - wonder what that would be? Are there any charts for this info, too?

  12. You definitely know your stuff :) :) :) I felt like I was back in science class all over again :) :) :) Seriously though, that was really good information. I have IBD(inflammatory bowel disease) and in some of the things I've read...goat's milk comes up quite a bit. I've read that goat's milk digest more quickly in the human tummy than cows milk...and also, isn't there something about the way goats are raised, that's healthier than cows? They can't be treated/raised with chemicals etc? I'm not sure on that one...but in any case, I do try and buy that when I can...not all the time, because it's super spendy..but it does taste really great!!!...also doesn't make me feel weird afterwards either... Great post. Thanks again for the information. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  13. this is a great article.....and we almost did buy a milking goat this summer, however, finding transportation for the goat to our farm was a bit hard to figure out - and no one had a trailer they could lend us!

    It'll happen when the time is right I suppose.

  14. We milk goats and cows in a state that allows for the sale of raw milk directly from the farm to the consumer. The A1/A2 issue is important. We milk Jerseys mostly, but we are making the change in our herd to milking shorthorns. Both milk types are wonderful. The goat milk requires more careful handling, but when handled properly, it is delicious.
    I am thankful to have both. The easily skimmed cream is a plus, when working with cow milk, and needing butter or ice cream. I also think the cow milk makes better yogurt.
    Alas, nearly every drop of our cow milk is sold! So we just don't get to enjoy it as much.
    One thing I will say, though, the bio-availability of the minerals in raw milk is excellent when growing children. Some children have bones that break so easily, but I've seen my children have accidents that really should have broken some bones, but didn't! One son fell about 20 feet out of a tree, and though he was sore, there wasn't even a fracture. I credit the raw milk which he has been drinking since I weaned him (from my own raw milk)!
    Thanks for the post.

  15. GREAT post! Thanks for the info:)

  16. Love this post! We are getting ready to start a cow share.

    I, too, prefer cows milk yogurt over goat's milk yogurt.

    We are going with cows milk because I feel getting the "extra" products such as butter, yogurt and sour cream (and I plan to attempt soft cheeses) helps to offset the additional cost over store bought.

    I am completely sold on raw milk and the benefits, but to convince my hubby to justify the double cost per gallon, I had to show him the accounting including the other products we can get from the raw milk, in order for him to agree.

  17. I was wondering what the yield per day was goat vs. cow? We have the facilities for either one. I would think that a goat would be easier to milk and you would get less, which would be o.k. However, I do have a large family and need a good bit of milk. I don't know much about goats at this point but would definitly consider getting one or two in light of the points in your article! thanks Carrie in PA

  18. Carrie, There are so many factors that determine the yield of a goat as well as a cow. Yield for both is measured in pounds rather than liquid measurements (because of foaming during milking makes it less accurate to measure b liquid). A cow typically averages between 15,000 - 20,000 pounds per lactation cycle while a goat averages 1,000 - 3,000 pounds.(Check my figures on the cow average). Keep in mind that you won't get the same amount every day from an animal - it will vary during their lactation cycle, peaking a short time after kidding/calving, and then leveling off a bit more before declining at the end of their cycle.

  19. we are thinking of getting some milk goats when we finally move to our new farm (Lord willing soon!) its tough right now selling a house and not being able to homestead as much as I want to, but I have a really funny question for you?! Do you ever go on vacation, and if so (even just out of town for a couple days to visit relatives) do you leave all your animals behind?! Its so much work to find "pet sitters" and do you have someone take care of your farm? This is a big factor for us as we are moving states away from our families and will have to visit and leave the animals home!
    Thanks! This is so educational and great easy to follow steps.

  20. Hi Angela,
    I usually hire a teenager who I've worked with for a while and knows how I like things done OR I trade with a friend who is a homesteader. In fact, I'll be taking care of her goats and chickens in a few months when she goes on vacation and I'm sure she'll reciprocate if I need her. So meeting other homesteaders is crucial - be sure to read my post today on building a homesteading community!

  21. Not to split hairs here, but you talk about the enzyme released by homogenization and its deleterious effects, then you say "another point for raw milk". But shouldn't you actually say "another point for unhomogenized milk"? I get where you're coming from, after all, raw milk is generally not homogenized. But I feel it might be confusing for some readers, who will think that pasteurization and homogenization are the same thing. Pasteurization and homogenization are not the same thing. Raw milk is unpasteurized, but pasteurized milk isn't necessarily homogenized. I buy milk that is pasteurized (raw is illegal in my state) but not homogenized.


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