Is Goat Milk Dairy?
When you think of a dairy, you might think of cows. You may picture a big red barn, green grass, milk pails, and a herd of happy cows, waiting for their turn to be milked. And when you think of dairy products, you may think of some related things: cheese, ice cream and yogurt, all made from the milk of dairy cows. But that’s not the whole picture, especially not on a global scale.
Goat milk is the most-consumed dairy product in the world, over cow milk, over butter, and over cream. Picture now, a small goat used to supply one small household with milk, cheese, and, someday: possibly meat. Now it might make more sense. Yes, goat milk is indeed dairy. But what is dairy, exactly? And how did goat milk get to be the most widely-consumed dairy product the world over?
To get to the bottom of these questions, let’s first define dairy.
Definition of Dairy
At its most basic definition, dairy is the milk or a product made from the milk of a lactating mammal, like goats, sheep, or cows. Most of the time, when someone says “dairy” they’re likely referring to traditional dairy, which is cow’s milk and products made from cow’s milk. It’s considered traditional dairy here in the U.S. because cow’s milk is typically more readily available, produced in larger quantities, and is traditionally more popular than other dairy products.
Cow’s milk and products made from it are not the only things that fall into the category of dairy. Goat milk is included in the wider definition of dairy as well (including any cheese or other products made from the goat’s milk). If you really want to get exotic, you can check out water buffalo milk (for about $34 a gallon) or camel or yak milk, but those aren’t typically available outside of hyper-specific regions. In the northern regions of Scandinavia, reindeer milk is the only milk available since other dairy animal populations cannot survive the intense winters. Again, all of these products categorized as dairy are the milk or products made from the milk of lactating mammals.
Now that we know what dairy is, we can investigate what dairy is not.
If it isn’t milk or a product made from the milk of lactating mammals, it cannot be classified as dairy. This definition of dairy products applies even if you find the product in question in the dairy section of your grocery store. Eggs, for example, are often questioned as being a dairy product because they’re often stocked in the dairy section of the store, near butter and cream and require refrigeration. Refer to the table below to get a better idea of what falls into each category.
Milk or products made from the milk of lactating mammals
Not made from the milk of lactating mammals
Fluid milk (from goats, cows, sheep, etc.)
Beef or other meats
Half and half
Powdered or condensed milk
So, as you can tell from the table above, eggs are not dairy. You’ll also see that goat milk is listed in the dairy column.
In addition to being the milk of a lactating mammal, goat milk is also recognizable as dairy because it shares the nutritional advantages of other types of dairy (and then some!)
In general, dairy offers many vitamins and minerals in a dense format, so two or three servings a day will help you meet nutritional guidelines. A nutrient-dense glass of pure-white goat milk offers extra protein, potassium, calcium, vitamins and minerals–even more than the traditional dairy producer.
Popularity of Goat Milk
Cow milk may be more popular in the United States, but across the world, it’s a different story. Goat milk is the most popular dairy product consumed, with over two-thirds of the world’s entire population drinking goat milk.
But why is it so popular? With the exception of Antarctica, goats can be found on every continent. Many families around the world do not buy milk from the store. They produce it for themselves or as a product to trade at market. Compared to their bovine counterparts, goats take up less space, eat less, and are easily managed–even by children. They can be purchased by a family and fed at a much lower cost, providing enough fresh milk (and all the nutrition that comes with it) for one family. For example, in the Kalahari Desert, goats provide most of the milk and meat for a household, while cows are more of a status symbol.
In addition to being easier to keep and being acclimated to most types of weather and terrain, goats are also the producers of one of the most nutritious dairy products: goat milk.
Which Dairy is best for you?
All dairy has a few major components: water, protein, fat, sugar, minerals and vitamins.
Dairy has long been known to provide a heavy dose of nutrition in a glass.
Dairy, in general, is cost-effective and provides a lot of nutrition in one place. It would be possible to have a balanced diet without dairy, but it would take significant research and a very wide variety of foods (and we think it wouldn’t be nearly as delicious!)
If you’re sensitive to lactose, have a dairy allergy, or have been seeking out a simple addition to your diet that gives you extra protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, goat milk could be the solution for you.
Dairy allergies and goat milk
If you have a dairy allergy, it’s possible you can avoid a reaction to goat milk in the same way that you may react to cow milk. This is because the alphaS1-casein (a protein) found in goat milk is detected at much lower levels than in cow milk, where it is the main protein. Goat milk typically contains beta-casein as its main protein, which does not prompt allergic reactions as often as the alphaS1-casein. Goat milk is still considered dairy, so please consult with your medical provider prior to drinking goat milk if you have a dairy allergy.
Dairy and lactose
Some dairy consumers choose goat milk because they’re looking for a dairy product that has less lactose due to an intolerance or sensitivity. Goat milk has 3 grams less lactose than cow milk per serving and smaller fat globules, which may help with easier digestion. Having a higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids can also help your body digest goat milk more easily. For more information on directly comparing goat milk to cow milk (or “traditional” dairy) check out our post here.
Why Choose Goat Milk
Goat milk is a great dairy option. Over the years, we’ve seen the demand for goat milk go up, and it’s certainly due in part to the nutritional advantages, simple production, and expanded availability.
Wondering why goat milk could be the best dairy option?
- Nutritional advantages: More Vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus , and better digestibility due to medium chain fatty acids and lower levels of the alphaS1-casein protein. Also, the comparatively small fat globules in goat milk may aid in easier digestion.
- Simple production: Our milk is simple, from goat to glass. Because goat milk is naturally homogenized, we let you decide whether you’d like to mix it up, or scrape off the cream for a lower fat option. We chill our milk immediately after it’s collected, so the freshness is maintained. Learn more about our milking process and other frequently asked questions here.
- Affordability and availability: Goat milk can be found at your local health food store, or even bigger chain health food store. We stock in Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods. If you’re wondering where to find us, go here.
Goat milk is dairy. If you’ve been avoiding dairy because of digestion problems, but want to maintain your bone and dental health, and add easy-to-drink protein, vitamins and minerals to your diet for your active and healthy lifestyle, keep goat milk in your fridge and on your table.
George F. W. Haenlein. Why Does Goat Milk Matter? – A Review. Nutri Food Sci Int J. 2017; 2(4): 555594. DOI: 10.19080/NFSIJ.2017.02.555594
Benoît Graulet, Ruminant milk: A source of vitamins in human nutrition, Animal Frontiers, Volume 4, Issue 2, April 2014, Pages 24–30, https://doi.org/10.2527/af.2014-0011