Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When we say “alternative milk,” your mind probably goes to almond, soy, or oat – but there’s another worth trying: Goat milk.
It’s likely you’ve tried soft goat cheese, frequently used in salads, savory tarts and other dishes, so you may already be familiar with the slightly gamey tang goat products offer. If you enjoy that, you’re in for a treat with all the other products created from goat milk. Along with its flavor, goat milk offers some nutritional advantages.
Goat milk is a great choice for anyone with dairy sensitivities
For those who find cow’s milk rough on their stomachs, goat milk is “definitely worth a try,” says registered dietician-nutritionist Shana Hussin, noting that the protein casein in goat milk is primarily the A2 variety, which is easier for many people to digest than the A1 casein more prevalent in cow’s milk.
In addition to the type of protein, goat milk is “a source of complete protein, versus most of the plant-based milk products,” she says. “Per serving, you get about 8 grams of protein or so from both cow’s milk or goat’s milk, but depending on the alternative that you’re using, that might be much lower.” A complete protein has all nine of the essential amino acids; in this context “essential” means that our bodies can’t make them, we have to get them from food. All animal sources are complete proteins; most plant sources are not, so they have to be combined strategically to form complete protein.
The takeaway: The protein in goat’s milk is complete and more abundant than plant sources, and for many people, more easily digested than that of cow’s milk.
Hussin also notes that some plant-based milks contain inflammatory vegetable oils, stabilizers, sugar and other additives.
Another advantage to goat’s milk in terms of digestibility: The type of fat. “There are more short chain and medium chain fatty acids in goat’s milk rather than the longer chain fatty acids in cow’s milk,” Hussin says. “And that can be one of the reasons why people are digesting it better, because it’s more quickly absorbed.” Because smaller globules of fat have more surface area, there’s more room for digestive enzymes to reach, so more of the fat is broken down and absorbed.
Goat milk is more eco-friendly, too
If environmental concerns are what’s turning you away from dairy, goat milk is a good choice. Though they are ruminants and do produce some methane, “Goats are the perfect recyclers and upcyclers,” says Dr. Frank Mitloehner, professor and air quality specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California-Davis. “Recyclers because they can take agricultural co-products and byproducts that nobody else eats, such as cotton seeds and almond hulls and all kinds of things that would either just rot under the sky or go to a landfill. They can eat it, and that’s what makes them a recycler. They are upcyclers because they use natural vegetation that has no other human food-producing purpose, and they convert that into animal-source foods,” such as cheese, milk and meat.
That recycling and upcycling reverberates into other areas as well. When farmers use goats to clear harvested fields, they don’t have to plow the scraps back into the land, which saves fuel usage, Dr. Mitloehner notes. Because the goats upcycle those scaps, the land is serving an extra purpose (growing crops and then providing food for animals that then produce more products). Plus, goats can be brought in to clear brush that, if left, could fuel fires, he adds.
Ready to give goat products a try? Here are some to get you started:
- Goat milk: Regular milk, powdered or evaporated. Use it wherever you would use cow’s or non-dairy milk
- Goat butter: You’ll notice it’s more of a creamy white than the yellow of cow butter, and it tends to be softer at room temperature because of its lower melting point. (It’s also far pricier than cow butter, fair warning.) There’s a slight tang if you taste it on its own or spread it on toast, but it mostly disappears when you cook or bake with it
- Goat kefir: Use it in smoothies, as a marinade, or in place of buttermilk in pancakes or biscuits
- Goat cheese: When we say “goat cheese” you might think of a soft variety like chevre or Humboldt Fog. But you can also get an aged cheese similar to gouda, a cheddar or a brie–and many other popular varieties–made with goat milk
- Goat ice cream, mac and cheese and cheesy popcorn: OK, these are more treats than everyday foods, but if you want to incorporate goat milk products into more parts of your diet, here’s a fun way to do it
- Goat milk caramel: For a real indulgence, drizzle some of this lovingly made caramel sauce onto ice cream, into coffee drinks or over crepes. With flavors like cinnamon vanilla, whiskey, and salted dark chocolate, they make great gifts, too
- Goat milk moisturizer: Goat milk is a source of lactic acid, a good moisturizer for skin. Slather it on to get that glow. Try a goat milk bar soap, too.
Featured image: Quicker-Than-Quick Baked Feta