What makes goat milk so special?
If you casually glance at a goat yoga Instagram post, you might not realize that you’re actually looking at an important part of history.
Goats were among the world’s first domesticated animals. Goats’ small size makes them easier to herd and milk than their bovine counterparts, and they have historically been referred to as “the poor man’s cow.” They are friendly, adaptable, and produce excellent milk, so it’s no small wonder that we love our goats — just like countless others people have throughout history.
Goat Milk Origin Story
Goats made their way to North America in the 1500’s, when they were brought by Spanish colonists. Many of those goats went on to become feral, roaming the land which would later become the United States. As a result, dairy goats were not considered a valuable commodity for the first part of US history. (Cattle, pigs, sheep, and chickens were much more common farm animals.) By and large, goat milk and cheese consumption was limited to personal use within small family farms.
Then interest in goat milk really kicked into gear during World War II, with the rising popularity of Victory Gardens. Since then, the demand for goat milk has continued to grow as more Americans discovered its delicious taste and easy digestion.
Goat Milk Nutrition vs. Cow Milk Nutrition
In general, ruminant milk is a near perfect food. It contains all 8 essential amino acids, significant amounts of calcium, vitamins A and D, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. Both goat milk and cow milk consist of the same basic parts — water, protein, fat, and lactose (milk sugar). And at a cursory glance, the nutrition information of cow milk and goat milk actually looks very similar.
Summerhill Goat Milk (1 Cup)
Cow Milk (1 Cup)
Goat milk vs. Cow milk
If goat milk and cow milk are so similar, why are so many people opting for goat milk these days? Let’s take a deeper look into the components of these milks to see why many people prefer to get their dairy from goats instead of cows.
Many people limit their dairy intake due to lactose intolerance. When the body does not generate adequate amounts of lactase to break down the sugars in milk, a person can experience uncomfortable symptoms like excessive gas or bloating. Goat milk can be a great option for those who have a problem with lactose because it naturally contains about 1% less lactose than cow’s milk. So those who are typically sensitive to dairy products might find goat milk to be a good option.
Not only does goat milk contain less lactose, but its fat content is also much simpler for human digestion than cow milk. This means that the fat globules in goat milk are smaller and easier for our milk fat-dissolving enzyme — lipase— to break into smaller pieces as they pass through our gut. So goat milk travels through the human digestive system relatively easily when compared to cow milk.
Goat’s milk also contains higher concentrations of essential fatty acids. Also known as medium chain triglycerides, these fatty acids are easily converted into energy and are less prone to fat storage than other types of fats. Goat milk’s fat contains approximately 30-35% medium chain triglycerides (compared to cow’s 15-20%), making goat milk a healthy option for most dairy lovers.
Dairy lovers can also face another issue when it comes to allergies — specifically Casein allergies. Some people don’t process A1 milk proteins very easily, which can lead to a range of health issues (from mild discomfort to severe immunologic responses). Many people have discovered that although they have problems with A1 casein, they can safely and comfortably enjoy dairy from animals with A2 casein. Goat milk naturally contains A2 casein proteins, while A1 casein proteins generally come from cows. (While some cows actually produce A2 milk, the availability of their milk is the exception, not the rule.)
Like most food and animal products, the nutritional composition of the milk you drink can make a big difference. When making choices about dairy, you will ultimately find the best flavor and highest nutrients from animals who were raised, fed, and treated properly. If you love cow milk, goat milk is definitely worth a try. And if you have trouble with traditional dairy due to health concerns, goat milk could be a good alternative. You might find a new favorite treat!
Apples, berries, oats, and Summerhill Goat Milk come together in a delicious baked breakfast that will keep you going all morning long.