Goat’s milk: does it have to stink a bit?

Goat’s milk is not for everyone. Many people love its characteristic aroma while others wrinkle their nose at it. Where does this flavour come from? And how is goat’s milk different from cow’s milk?

In fact, the fat in goat’s milk has a slightly different composition than that of cow’s milk. More precisely, the fatty acids that are a component of milk fat are different. Generally speaking, the smaller – shorter-chained – the fatty acid, the more intense the flavour. In goat’s milk, the proportion of short-chained caproic, caprylic and capric acid is higher than in cow’s milk, resulting in the characteristic goat flavour. In addition, in both goat’s milk and cow's milk the fatty acid pattern is affected by the animal’s diet. The flavour changes depending on the season and type of feed. Many of us have noticed that the flavour of cow’s milk changes slightly in the spring when the feed is switched from hay to grass.

Picky eaters
Feed is even more important to goats as they are extremely picky. If you have ever taken a walk in the forest with goats – there is such a thing, for the author is the proud owner of two “hobby goats” – then you know that they nibble on all sorts of things: tree bark, reeds and wild blackberry bushes, prickly branches and all. This odd feeding behaviour also affects the milk. Goat’s milk lovers consequently rejoice at the “aromatic” flavour that tastes tart in the spring and sweet in the winter.

Important: milking hygiene
However, the notion that goat’s milk has a “gamey” smell stubbornly prevails. Can this be true? Goat’s milk is quick to take on a foreign flavour. If a billy goat is nearby whose hair on his head exudes the typical and intense goat smell, this can affect the flavour of the milk. However, thanks to the proper stance, milking hygiene with a closed milking installation similar to that used in cow's milk plants and modern processing, nowadays this problem no longer exists.
In short, it's true that goat's milk has a characteristic flavour. But it’s no longer the case that “it has to stink a bit”.

Goat’s cheese from Switzerland
Emmi produces around 15 different goat’s cheese products under the “Le Petit Chevrier” brand. These include fresh, soft, semi-hard and hard cheese made from Swiss goat’s milk. There is even a raclette cheese made from goat’s milk. (www.lepetitchevrier.ch)

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