Although goat’s milk is actually consumed by more people around the world, its popularity is not anywhere close to cow’s milk in North America. However, because of some benefits that are unique to goat’s milk, it is gradually gaining acceptance in the mainstream. Should you be switching to goat’s milk, or adding it to your diet?
Nutritional Comparison: Goat’s versus Cow’s Milk
|Per cup (8 fl.oz.) serving||Whole Goat’s Milk||Whole Cow’s Milk|
|Saturated Fat (grams)||6.5||4.6|
|Vitamin A (IU)||483||395|
|Vitamin D (IU)||124||124|
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
- Fat: Perhaps the most obvious difference between goat’s and cow’s milk is the fat content. Goat’s milk is significantly higher in both total and saturated fat, but because goat’s milk fat does not contain agglutinin like cow’s milk, the fat globules in goat’s milk do not separate to the surface and therefore do not need to be homogenized. On the other hand, lower-fat and skim versions of cow’s milk are readily available on the market, but only a few brands of goat’s milk, like Meyenberg, have low-fat versions available.
- Protein: Goat’s milk is higher in protein and contains higher levels of essential amino acids. Goat’s milk proponents also argue that goat’s milk protein has very different structures from cow’s milk, making it more digestible and causing fewer allergic reactions, but scientific evidence hasn’t proved this so far.
- Lactose: Because of goat’s milk’s slightly lower levels of lactose, people who suffer from lactose intolerance may tolerate goat’s milk better than cow’s milk.
- Vitamins and minerals: Cow’s milk and dairy products are well-known sources of calcium, but goat’s milk is even higher in calcium than cow’s milk, making meeting calcium needs easier. As for Vitamin A, goat’s milk is again higher than cow’s milk, and because the Vitamin A in goat’s milk is not in the form of beta-carotene like cow’s milk, goat’s milk has a whiter appearance than cow’s milk. Vitamin D is fortified to the same levels in both goat’s and cow’s milk.
Impact on the Environment
For some people, the nutritional differences alone warrant a switch of their dairy source. For others, it is goat’s milk’s more environmentally friendly production that prompts the switch. Less pasture and lower quality natural forage are required for raising dairy goats than for raising dairy cows, making goats more environmentally friendly milk producers. In addition, bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is not used on goat farms. Dairy goat farms are smaller in scale than the factory farms that are typical of dairy cow farms, which allows for more humane treatment of goats (for example, goats are allowed more free range and antibiotic use is kept to a minimum).
The Bottom Line
Despite some differences in nutrient levels, goat’s milk and cow’s milk are both highly nutritious choices. The flavor of goat’s milk is rather distinct and the taste for it is a matter of personal preference. Jennifer Lynn Bice, owner of Redwood Hill Farm, indicated that fresh goat’s milk should not taste gamy at all. Goat’s milk may be the right alternative for you if you have lactose intolerance, or if you prefer to consume hormone-free milk that is produced in a more environmentally friendly fashion. Similar to cow’s milk, goat’s milk is not recommended for infants under one year of age.
Owennie is a registered dietitian with a soft spot for chocolate and coffee. She is a believer in balance and moderation, and is committed to keeping healthy eating enjoyable and fun. Owennie received her dietetics training in Vancouver, and is a member of Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, such as clinical nutrition, long-term care and outpatient counseling. Owennie has also worked for a community nutrition hotline and participated regularly as a guest radio host, where she enjoyed sharing her passion and knowledge about food and nutrition with people.