Get Your Goat

Why it's time to think beyond cow's milk.
By Jeanette Hurt

The glossy mustache advertisements and dancing-cow commercials might try to convince you that bovines have cornered the milk market, but there’s a whole other category in the dairy case that’s got as much—or more—nutritional game: goat’s milk.

Higher in several vitamins and minerals than cow’s milk, goat’s milk also has less cholesterol. Plus, goat’s milk products are some of the most natural on supermarket shelves, according to Karyl Dronen of the American Dairy Goat Association. “With cows, the milk of several hundred herd is mixed together—and then altered—to make a uniformly 4 percent fat product,” says Dronen. “Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and it comes from very small herds, so you’re getting a purer product.” Even better, especially for the lactose-intolerant: Goat’s milk is usually easier to digest because of its different protein and fat composition. With lower amounts of alpha s1-casein, and fat globules that are three times smaller than those in cow’s milk, goat’s milk tends to yield a softer curd, making it easier for stomach enzymes to break down.

Here’s a guide to help you navigate the goat dairy case.

Goat’s milk
Don’t want to pour this over your cereal for fear that it’ll taste, well, too goaty? A good goat’s milk shouldn’t have even a hint of an unpleasant flavor, says Tracy Darrimon, director of marketing at Meyenberg, one of the largest goat dairies in the country. “When male goats are in heat, they give off a breeding scent that’s absorbed into the female goat’s milk,” says Darrimon. But a good producer keeps the females away from the males immediately after mating, which assures they’ll produce a creamy, rich-flavored milk that doesn’t taste a bit like the farm.

HOW TO USE: Most of the goat’s milk you’ll find at the store contains all of its original fat content (i.e., it’s “whole”). And since some goat’s milk can have up to 8 percent fat, it’s typically richer than whole cow’s milk, which makes it a good substitute in recipes that call for cream (like Alfredo sauce).

OUR FAVES: Caprine Supreme ($3 to $4 per quart) and Meyenberg ($2.79 to $3.89 per quart; meyenberg.com).

Goat cheese
“Cheese was the first goat’s milk product to be accepted by mainstream consumers in this country, which is why it’s typically someone’s first foray into the world of goat’s milk products,” says Dronen. Traditionally, goat’s milk has been used in soft chèvres, but thanks to a surge in popularity and demand, you can find a goat’s milk version of just about any type of cheese.

HOW TO USE: Spread a soft chèvre instead of cream cheese on a toasted bagel; sprinkle a firmer variety on a veggie pizza; or crumble a bit of goat’s milk feta in a salad.

OUR FAVES: Montchevré for a French-style chèvre ($3.69 per 4-oz log; montchevre.com); Cypress Grove for artisan varieties like Humboldt Fog ($18 per pound; cypressgrove.com); and Mt. Sterling for a raw milk cheddar ($4 per 8 ounces; buygoatcheese.com).

Goat’s milk butter
Since goat’s milk lacks beta-carotene, the version of vitamin A that gives cow’s milk its yellowish hue, goat’s milk butter is naturally pure white, making it a great-looking spread. Although it usually has a higher fat content and more calories than cow’s milk varieties, goat’s milk butter has a creamier consistency and a cheesier, richer taste.

HOW TO USE: Its super-white hue makes goat’s milk butter ideal for mixing with jam or herbs to make a compound butter that’s worthy of guests. Whip some with honey and cinnamon, and spread it over toast or crackers for a quick, sweet treat. Or melt goat butter over steamed veggies or a piece of grilled salmon or steak to give them a rich, cheesy flavor.

OUR FAVES: Meyenberg European Style Goat Butter ($4.99 to $6.99 per 8 oz; meyenberg.com); Mt. Sterling Whey Cream Goat Butter ($7 per pound; buygoatcheese.com)

Goat’s milk yogurt
To get a custard-like consistency, producers often thicken cow’s milk yogurt with nonfat dry milk. Goat’s milk yogurt is often thinner and soupier (there’s not enough dry goat milk available to use as a thickener), although producers have lately taken to adding a flavorless tapioca starch to goat’s milk yogurt to thicken it up.

HOW TO USE: Because of its thinner structure, unadulterated goat’s milk yogurt works especially well in homemade salad dressings and fruit dips. (Mix a cup of vanilla goat’s milk yogurt with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of orange juice to make a dip for apple and orange slices.)

OUR FAVE: Caprine Supreme ($1.39 per cup).

Goat’s milk ice cream
For those with dairy allergies, ice cream tops the list of sweet temptations—and goat’s milk varieties can safely satisfy that urge. Goat’s milk ice cream is often creamier than its cow’s milk counterparts: It’s made in smaller batches and producers can handpick which goat’s milk will make the best product (typically milk from animals at the end of their lactation cycle, since that leads to the highest fat content and therefore the creamiest ice cream).

HOW TO USE: Because of its rich, thick texture, goat’s milk ice cream tastes great right out of the carton, but you can put it in a bowl if you must.

OUR FAVES: Laloo’s “Black Mission Fig” and “Molasses Tipsy Cake” flavors. ($6.99 per quart; goatmilkicecream.com)

Jeanette Hurt is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cheeses of the World (Alpha, 2008).