Goat’s milk isn’t just for cheese anymore. If you walk into Whole Foods or a natural supermarket, you’ll find rows of goat’s milk yogurt, drinkable probiotic smoothies (or kefir), ice cream, and even cartons of the stuff.
Sure, it’s been a go-to choice for those with lactose digestions problems since forever, but it’s becoming a bigger phenomenon as people without those issues are increasingly curious about its health benefits—and its cool, culinary uses.
Take, for instance, Victory Garden. Sophia Brittan, a French Culinary Institute and Institute of Integrative Nutrition grad, opened her Manhattan soft-serve ice cream shop in June 2011. The West Village spot quickly became recognized for its gastronomic flavors like Mexican Vanilla, Chocolate Rosemary, and Rose Petal, with one important note—everything is made with goat’s milk.
“I met this goat dairy farmer in Connecticut, and he sold raw goat’s milk that was so delicious,” Brittan says. “I started cooking with it, and at the same time I saw it popping up on high end restaurant menus.”
While Brittan opened Victory Garden as a culinary venture, she noticed that a lot of her customers were coming in for dietary reasons—and not.
“Yeah, there are lactose intolerant people who come in, but also just a lot of young women in their 20s and 30s who are more health conscious,” she says.
Dana James, MS, founder of Food Coach and triple board-certified nutritionist, believes that people are increasingly becoming aware of the health benefits of goat’s milk, which would explain why health-conscious women are starting to opt for it.
“They assume correctly that there’s less lactose and it’s less allergenic than cow’s milk,” James says. “It’s also well-known that it’s easier to digest because the fat molecules are smaller in size.”
“One of our desserts at Empellón Cocina, a Mexican version of dulce de leche, features goat’s milk,” he says. “We reduce it very slowly with sugar until it makes a rich caramel. We put a dollop of that on bottom with some fresh blackberries and pour a goat’s milk soup over and top with crushed ice.” (Um, two for dinner, please.)
Plus, Empellón Cocina will soon feature a Ramos Gin Fizz that switches out heavy cream with goat’s milk, and currently braises its goat shoulder in goat’s milk. Stupak believes goat’s milk is slightly grassier and sweeter than cow’s milk, and sources raw goat’s milk “for maximum health benefits and taste.”
In the grocery sector, Jennifer Bice, owner of Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery (which you’ve probably seen at your local natural foods store) says that the Millennials are going for goat’s milk with serious gusto.
“Our sales show that the younger generation is more adventurous and open to trying other types of dairy,” says Bice, whose parents founded the Sonoma County farm in 1968. “A few people try it, realize that it’s delicious and easier to digest, and by word-of-mouth it’s going mainstream.”
And it isn’t just Redwood Hill Farms. Coach Farm, Meyenberg, Capretta, and Kabrita (toddler formula and yogurt for children) also make goat’s milk products that are sold at Whole Foods nationwide, and Laloo’s is a goat’s milk ice cream sold at most natural food supermarkets—in addition to the local brands exclusive to each area.
Rita Kellogg, co-owner of Side Hill Acres Dairy Goat Farm and a goat farmer for the past 28 years, also believes that goat’s milk is the healthiest option, particularly when its raw. But there’s a distribution downside: “Unfortunately it has to be pasteurized, you can only sell raw milk from directly on the farm,” she explains. (Stupak says he has to source his raw goat’s milk from under-the-table transactions.)
But with so many members of the health-conscious tribe reaching for goat’s milk in either form, we wouldn’t be surprised if it popped up as an option in your neighborhood organic coffee shop come winter. —Jamie McKillop