3 key differences between cows' milk and goats' milk

Consumers of goats' milk frequently report beneficial health outcomes after switching from cows' milk. These anecdotal benefits include improved gut health, easier digestibility, resolution of skin complaints and reduced mucous production. Although little scientific research exists to confirm these claims, there are a number of key differences between goats' milk and cows' milk that may help to explain their existence and offer possible benefits for people with specific nutritional or health needs*.

Fat composition

The fat globules found in goats milk are typically smaller than those found in other animal milks, this makes them easier to 'break down' and digest in the gut. Furthermore, there is a higher amount of 'medium chain triglycerides'found within the fat globules present in goats milk when compared to cows' milk. Medium chain triglycerides are a type of fat that is digested, absorbed and used within the body more easily than fats with longer structures.

Protein composition

The proteins found in milk can be divided into two main groups: caseins and whey proteins.

For both cows' milk and goats' milk, around 80% of the protein present is casein based and around 20% is whey based. The casein proteins found in milk can be divided into four major types: alpha, beta, gamma and kappa caseins. There is a subtle difference in protein composition between the two milks with regards to the proportion of each type of casein they contain. Goats' milk contains more beta caseins than cows' milk, whereas cows' milk contains more alpha caseins, particularly alpha-s1-casein which is understood to be one of the proteins responsible for cows' milk allergy*.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that encourage the growth and activity of the 'friendly' bacteria in the digestive system, therefore supporting normal gut health and function. Oligosaccharides are a type of naturally occurring prebiotic found in a number of food stuffs. There are thought to be 4-5 times more oligosaccharides in goat's milk compared to cows' milk.

 

*Important:If you have a suspected or confirmed allergy to cows' milk, it is not recommended that you consume goats' milk unless specifically advised to do so by your doctor or registered dietitian. Significant similarity exists between cows and goats milk protein, hence there is a risk of cross-reactivity.

References for this page

  1. Delamere Dairy Consumer Survey 2011
  2. El-Agamy EI 2007. The challenge of cow milk protein allergy. Small Ruminant Research.  68: 64-72
  3. Tomotake H, Okuyama R, Katagiri M, Fuzita M, Yamato M, Ota F. Comparison between Holstein cow's milk and Japanese-Saanen goat's milk in fatty acid composition, lipid digestibility and protein profile. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2006; 70:2771-2774.]
  4. Macfarlane S, Macfarlane GT, Cummings JH. Prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 1;24(5):701-14.
  5. Martinez-Ferez A et al (2006). Goats milk as a natural source of lactose-derived oligosaccharides: Isolation by membrane technology. International Dairy Journal 16: 173-181.

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