by Rebecca Sanderson
What is the difference between goat milk vs. cow milk? Being similar livestock-type animals, the overall composition of their respective milks are quite similar, but they do have some key differences. Some of these differences are displayed in the nutritional content. Another difference is in the taste of the milk. These differences can help us decide which type of milk we want to drink.
Nutritionally, goat milk and cow milk compare relatively well. Most vitamins and macronutrients are found in similar quantities. One cup of goat milk has 10 grams of fat compared to cow milk having eight grams of fat. This causes the goat milk to be higher in calories, about 19 more calories in that cup for a total of 168 calories. Being higher in fat, the goat milk is also higher in saturated fat, which we are cautioned to limit in our diets. In fact, that single cup of goat milk has one third of the saturated fat that you need in a day. However, goat milk has a little less sugar, 11 grams per cup versus cow milk having 12 grams per cup. Goat milk is higher in calcium, giving you 32 percent of your daily value in one cup while cow milk gives you 27 percent. Goat milk’s 9 grams of protein per cup is one gram higher than that of cow milk. Cow milk is higher in folate, selenium, and riboflavin as well as significantly higher in vitamin B12. Goat milk has more vitamin A, vitamin C (cow milk has none), vitamin B1, magnesium, and considerably more potassium. Both milks are roughly the same in their amount of vitamin D, cholesterol, and sodium. Overall, goat milk vs. cow milk are fairly equal nutritionally unless you are specifically looking for a higher or lower amount of any of these key nutrients. (Comparisons were made using whole cow milk via USDA nutritional values.)
While at a glance, goat milk vs. cow milk seem to be evenly balanced; yet delving deeper brings up a few advantages of goat milk. The primary advantage nutritionally comes from the nature of the fat in the milk. Cow milk is comprised mostly of long chain fatty acids while goat milk has much more medium and even short chain fatty acids. The length of the chain refers to how many carbon atoms are found in the fat molecule. Long chain fatty acids are harder for the body to digest because they require bile salts from the liver as well as pancreatic enzymes to break them down before they can be absorbed by the intestine. They are then packaged as lipoproteins and delivered to different tissues of the body, eventually ending up at the liver where they are converted to energy. However, medium chain fatty acids do not require pancreatic enzymes to be broken down. This lightens the load on your pancreas. They are also absorbed directly into the bloodstream and do not have to be packaged as lipoproteins. They go directly to the liver to be metabolized for energy rather than possibly being deposited first as fat. Not only are medium chain fatty acids not deposited as fat, but they can also lower cholesterol (Norton, 2013). In various studies of goat milk benefits using goat milk vs. cow milk, those given goat milk had better fat absorption from the intestines, better weight gain in a hospital setting, and lower total and LDL cholesterol (“Why Does Goat Milk Matter? A Review,” by George F.W. Haenleins, originally published in the July/August 2017 issue of Dairy Goat Journal). Some of the other advantages of goat milk include avoiding cow milk protein allergies and having less lactose for those with mild lactose intolerance, as well as the slightly different proteins making a smaller curd in the stomach as it digests. When you drink milk, the acid in your stomach curdles the milk as part of the digestion process. Cow milk makes a harder curd while goat milk makes a smaller, softer curd that can be more quickly broken down by the stomach enzymes.
Many people find that their choice between cow milk and goat milk is decided mainly by taste. Often, goat milk has a more robust flavor than cow milk, and it is overwhelming to those not accustomed to it. While it is true that goat milk typically has a stronger flavor, there are a variety of factors that affect the flavor of the milk, whether it is from goats or cows. The first factor in how milk tastes is the health of the animal it came from. Second, an animal’s diet vastly impacts the flavor of its milk. If an animal eats something such as onions or garlic, that taste will definitely come through to the milk. An animal eating mostly grass and/or hay will have much more mild-tasting milk. Even spending much time in a strong-smelling barn can taint the flavor of the animal’s milk. The storage of milk will also affect the flavor. This includes storage and milk expiration dates at the farm, the store, and in your home. Microbial contamination anywhere along the chain between udder and table will cause an unpleasant taste. An otherwise healthy animal that is under stress will also produce sub-par milk. Breed, age of the animal, stage of lactation, and number of lactations will affect how milk tastes (Scully, 2016). If you are raising and milking your own herd, you can control these factors very well, making the best tasting milk possible. When you obtain milk from others, you must rely on them doing the work to produce good milk. Much of the time, it is the store-bought pasteurized goat milk that has the undesirable flavor while raw, fresh goat milk tastes very similar to raw cow milk. Many even find they prefer the taste of goat milk far above that of cows.
Goat milk vs. cow milk may have some very important differences, but in the end they are still very similar especially in their nutritional content. Goat milk has some definite advantages when it comes to digestion and absorption of nutrients, but some object to the taste. Others will grab a glass of goat milk over cow milk any day. Which do you prefer?
Goat Milk vs. Cow Milk: Which is Healthier? (2017, April 2). Retrieved June 28, 2018, from Prevention: https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/a19133607/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/
Norton, D. J. (2013, September 19). Fats Explained: Short, Medium, and Long Chain Fats. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from Eating Disorder Pro: http://www.eatingdisorderpro.com/2013/09/19/fats-explained-short-medium-and-long-chain-fats/
Scully, T. (2016, September 30). Making milk taste good: Analyzing the factors that impact milk quality and taste. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from Progressive Dairyman: https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/management/making-milk-taste-good-analyzing-the-factors-that-impact-milk-quality-and-taste