Did you know that worldwide, more people consume goat milk than cow milk? In fact, some estimate that 65% of the world drinks goat milk. This is because in many countries, it’s quite common for a family to own a goat, which on average, yields a gallon or two of milk a day, just enough for a family’s daily needs…no refrigeration required.   

In the States, goat milk and products made from goat milk, most notably cheese (chevre), continue to experience steady growth as consumers learn that goat milk tastes similar to cow milk, is equally nutritious—if not better, and is easier to digest.

Chevrai soft unrefined goat cheese

According to USDA, there are about 30,000 dairy goat farms spread across all 50 states. Much like milk cows, the largest number of milk goats are found in Wisconsin and California. Other key goat farm states are Iowa, Texas and Minnesota.

Farmers and marketers have become more aggressive with educating consumers on the benefits of goat milk and products made from it. The main differences are in protein and fat composition. For starters, goat milk has been shown to be less allergenic than cow milk because of its low concentration of the highly allergenic protein known as alpha S-1 casein, a protein found in significantly high levels in cow milk. Beta-caseins are the major proteins in human and goat milk, as opposed to the alpha-caseins predominant in cow milk. The near absence of alpha S-1 casein in goat milk provides for a softer curd that is easier to digest.

Another reason many find goat milk to be easier to digest is because of its smaller fat globules, as compared to cow milk. It also contains less lactose than cow milk, which is important to those with lactose intolerance.

From an appearance and flavor perspective, goat milk is comparable to cow milk. It’s just as white and has a slightly sweet taste often described as “hazelnutty,” according to Meyenberg Goat Milk Products, Turlock, Calif. The smaller fat globules yield a smooth, creamy mouthfeel in applications, even without homogenization.

Carol Jackson, who owns Meyenberg with her husband Robert, explained to me how goat milk is uniquely different from cow milk in the concentration and forms of its nutrients. “Compared with cow milk, goat milk contains 13% more calcium, 47% more vitamin A, 34% more potassium and 250% more niacin,” she said. “It is also higher in vitamin C, chloride, copper and manganese. A recent study also indicated that goat milk contains 27% to 28% of the essential nutrient selenium.”

Goat milk fat differs significantly from cow milk fat in terms of fatty acids, as goat milk is higher in some essential fatty acids. “Three of the so-called medium-chain-length fatty acids are actually named after goats because of their predominance in goat milk,” says Ms. Jackson. (Capri- and capr- are Latin for goat.) These essential fatty acids have been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including coronary bypass, childhood epilepsy, cystic fibrosis and gallstones, because of their unique ability to provide energy while lowering serum cholesterol, explained Ms. Jackson.

In addition to a range of liquid and powdered goat milk products, Meyenberg offers some unique goat milk products, including butter and cheddar cheese. The butter is extraordinarily light on the palate yet has a rich, creamy flavor, according to Ms. Jackson. It is richer, with one-tablespoon containing 110 calories and 12 grams of fat, as compared to cow milk butter’s 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. The unique fatty acid composition gives it a lower melting point, which makes it easier to spread at refrigerated temperatures.

Meyenberg Goat Milk Butter

When most consumers think goat cheese, a soft product comes to mind. Meyenberg shows us that goat milk can be carefully crafted into harder cheese, too. Valley Goat Cheddar is creamy with mild goat overtones and has a complex flavor from a minimum of 90 days of aging. It’s firm and sliceable, like one expects from cheddar.

Cheesemakers have found success with blending goat milk with cow milk to make unique specialty products. For example, LaClare Farms, Chilton, Wis., now offers Martone, a fresh surface-ripened mixed-milk cheese. The cheese has a clean, slightly tangy flavor with buttery characteristics, and comes plain or with an ash coating for some kick.   

This is LaClare Farms’ second mixed-milk creation, following the Ziege Zacke Blue collaboration with Roelli Cheese Haus, Shullsburg, Wis. Ziege Zacke Blue is a dry Jack-style mixed-milk cheese. It is cave aged, yielding a creamy texture with a slight tang at the front, sweetness on the finish, and rich, earthy notes.

Meyenberg Valley Goat Cheddar Cheese

Hook’s Cheese Co., Mineral Point, Wis., recently developed “EWE CALF to be KIDding” Blue. As the name suggests, the cheese is made with a combination of sheep, cow and goat milk. The result is a unique flavor that plays back and forth among the different milks and finishes strong. 

The specialty cheese group of Saputo Cheese USA Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., launched a range of specialty cheese items at the Summer Fancy Food Show, including Joan of Arc Goat Cheese Trio. This product is a boxed collection of Traditional, Tomato Basil and Wild Honey goat cheeses.

Woolwich Dairy Inc., Lancaster, Wis., recently added four unique flavors to its Chevrai line of fresh unripened goat cheese. They are: Fig & Balsamic, Lemon & Lime, Sweet Pepper Heat and Thai Fusion. The company also rolled out Fresh Chévre Spreadable Goat Cheese in three flavors: Big Kick Herb & Garlic, Coco Loco Chocolate and Plain “N’ Simple

Earlier this year, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, Websterville, Vt., introduced a line of crumbled goat cheeses in four varieties. They are: Apricot & Thyme, Classic Chevre, Cranberry & Tarragon and Tomato & Basil.

Just this week, Kabrita North America, Mississauga, Canada, officially launched Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit in easy to squeeze pouches. It is designed for little ones with sensitive tummies.

Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt

“Cow milk intolerance occurs when components of cow milk--either the fat, lactose, protein or a combination of components--are digested poorly,” said Kate Morrison, board-certified naturopathic doctor, mom and co-founder. “If your little one suffers from this, they will likely tolerate goat milk very well.”

Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit comes in three toddler-approved flavors: Mixed Berry, Mango Peach, and Banana and Natural Vanilla Bean. All three flavors are fortified with vitamins D, C and E to meet the nutritional needs of active toddlers.

As consumer awareness of goat milk and goat milk products continues to grow, expect to see more innovation in the category.