Due to both health and environmental reasons, there has been increased interest in goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk. The process of making goat’s milk in general is less costly and may have less impact on the environment. In addition to milk, people are also looking at using goat’s milk as the base for butter and cheese. You may find goat’s milk more often now in the grocery stores as the demand for it grows. Worldwide, the use of goat's milk is actually higher than that of cow's milk. While cow and goat milk are similar in their basic composition, goat's milk does provide some benefits over that of cow’s milk.
People with lactose intolerance cannot process the sugar that is naturally found in milk. As a result, they may have bloating, cramping, diarrhea and increased gas. Since goat's milk has a little less lactose than cow's milk, some people may find goat's milk easier to digest.
There are a few differences between cow’s milk and goat’s milk in regards to vitamins and minerals. Cow’s milk has more calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B6 (riboflavin), vitamin B-12, folic acid and potassium. Goat’s milk has more niacin, copper and the antioxidant selenium.
Goat’s milk is a good source of high quality protein and has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. The protein in goat’s milk reacts with the stomach acids forming a soft curd that is easier to digest. As a result, the milk is processed quicker and may not stay in the stomach as long, which may decrease reflux. There is also less casein in goat’s milk, which may make it less allergenic.
Goat’s milk contains a little more fat than cow’s whole milk. However, goat’s milk contains short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids that are easier to digest. Because goat's milk does not contain agglutinin, a protein found in cow’s milk, it does not need to be homogenized. The fat globules in goat’s milk do not cluster together like they do in cow's milk, making it easier for the body to digest.
With many infants having problems with formula intolerance, goat’s milk formula may be an alternate choice. It is still best to first try soy-based formula or hypoallergenic formula. With the help of your pediatrician and nutritionist, goat’s milk formula may be a safe alternative, but usually needs additional nutrients added to it.
Goat’s milk may be an alternative to cow’s milk for those who need it. Goat’s milk has some properties that may make it easier to digest and less allergenic. However, it is important to keep in mind some of the differences in vitamin content.