What’s the difference between cows’ and goats’ milk anyway?

What’s the difference between cows’ and goats’ milk anyway?

Over the years we’ve received many questions and comments about the differences between cows’ milk and goats’ milk.  Here are a few of the most common:

I’m lactose intolerant, can I have goats’ milk cheese?

The answer to that depends on how intolerant to lactose you really are.  Both cows’ milk and goats’ milk contain lactose, with goats’ milk having only slightly less than cows’ milk.  Another thing to consider is the age of the cheese.  An extremely aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano will contain very little lactose, whereas a fresh cheese like chèvre will have quite a bit.  If your intolerance is severe, you probably avoid all dairy.  If it is less severe, you might enjoy goats’ milk products or well aged cheese.

In some cases the issue might not be lactose at all, it might be an intolerance to the fat in cows’ milk.  The fat globules in cows’ milk are much larger than those in goats’ milk making it more difficult for some people to digest.  If you are unsure about where you stand, it’s always a good idea to have a chat with your doctor.

I don’t eat dairy, gimme some of that goats’ cheese!

We hate to burst your bubble but if you eat goats’ cheese, you eat dairy.  Dairy products can me made from the milk of any mammal – in North America the most common are cows, followed by goats and sheep.  Looking for true non-dairy cheese?  They don’t exist, but you can find cheese substitutes made from nuts quite easily these days.

I don’t like goats’ cheese, it smells like a stinky old buck!

It’s true that bucks are some of the most foul smelling animals in the barn.  And I will agree with you that some goats’ cheese is stinkier than others, but not all goats’ milk cheeses possess this “barnyard” quality.   The fresher the milk, the less stinky the cheese (or fluid milk) will be.  If you are buying goats’ dairy in the supermarket, chances are the milk has sat in a tank for a few days, travelled a great distance, undergone pasteurization, been processed into its final product, and then travelled another great distance to you get you!   If you ever get the chance to do a side by side comparison of fresh and mass-market goats’ milk we encourage you to try…you just might be surprised!

Why is goat’s milk cheese more expensive than cows’ milk cheese?

It takes about nine dairy goats to produce the milk of a single dairy cow.  That’s nine times the does to milk, nine times the birthing mamas, and nine times the hooves to trim.  And because goats aren’t as common as cows, a lot of the equipment and expertise needed to raise and care for them doesn’t come cheap.  All of this adds up to extra time and money spent to produce goats’ milk, and in turn goats’ milk cheese.

Do you have any quesions about cows’ and goats’ milk?  Leave them in the comments and we’ll get you an answer!

Talk cheese like a pro by learning these 8 cheese categories

Talk cheese like a pro by learning these 8 cheese categories

There is no end to the way you can describe and categorize a cheese.  Maybe it’s gooey and mushroomy.  Or is it firm and nutty? Today we’ll talk about eight basic types of cheese and how you can identify them!


1. Fresh

Fresh cheeses are among the simplest to make.  As their name suggests, they have no aging period and are to be eaten immediately after production.  These cheeses are generally mild in flavour and do not have a rind.  Some examples include fromage frais, chèvre, cottage cheese, sour cream, and quark. 


2. Soft ripened

Also known as a bloomy rind cheese, these varieties ripen from the outside in.    Their rinds are a combination of mold and yeast, which start off white and fluffy and over time form a distinctive outer skin.  You can look forward to a gooey, soft centre in these cheeses.  Brie de Meaux, Humboldt Fog, and Camembert are all examples of soft ripened cheeses. 


3. Washed rind

Washed rind cheeses can be identified by their orange, pungent exterior.  During the aging process, these cheeses are washed or scrubbed with brine to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.  Gruyère, Epoisses, and our own Pennymede and Dovenby are all washed rind cheeses.  Eat these cheeses quickly…they can get really funky over time!


4. Semi hard

As the name suggests, these cheeses are on the firmer side, but they aren’t super hard and crumbly.  They are generally fairly mild in flavour and are good for melting.  Our Gillandsbeck and Tadwick Cheddars fall into this category, as do many popular cheeses such as Edam and Compte. 

Rounds of Edam, at the Edam Cheese Festival


5. Hard

Hard cheeses are very rich and flavourful because of their lengthy aging times.   Some can be aged for three years or more!  The longer a cheese ages for the less lactose it contains, making these cheeses excellent for people who have a low tolerance.  Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, and Grana Padana are all examples of hard cheeses. 


6. Blue veined

Love it or hate it, blue cheese is everywhere!  During the cheese making process, the mold Penicillium is introduced to encourage development of blue, green, or grey veins.  After the wheels of cheese are formed, the rounds are pierced with rods to allow oxygen to enter the cheese and allow the mold to spread.  Our Greengill and Abergavenny are blue veined cheeses, as are Roquefort and Stilton.

Blue veined cheese at Neal’s Yard Dairy

7. Pasta filata

In Italian, pasta filata means spun paste.  In the world of cheese it refers to varieties that have been kneaded and stretched during production resulting in stringy, stretchy cheeses great for melting.  Some cheeses are aged, such as Provolone, and others are eaten fresh, such as Mozzarella. 


8. Whey cheese

Whey is a protein rich by-product of cheese making which is high in lactose.  Rather than discard this liquid, some cheese makers opt to continue processing it to make whey cheese.  This involves heating the whey to a very high temperature and extracting all the remaining milk solids.  Some of these cheeses can be eaten fresh like Ricotta, and others are aged like Gjetost (my favourite!) and Ricotta Salata.