Does Goat Milk and Cheese Qualify as Dairy? What about Sheep Milk Products?

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Goat Milk ProductsQ: Rachel - I was wondering if goat and sheep products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, were considered dairy? Are they ok to eat or not?

A: Alisa – This is one of our most frequently asked questions on Go Dairy Free. In general, all mammal milks (sheep, goat, camel, etc.) and their related products (cheese, sour cream, etc.) are classified as dairy. In fact, if you look up goat milk and sheep milk online, you will probably come across the American Dairy Goat Association and the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative.

So, why all of the confusion? The milks from different mammals have slightly different compositions, which is why some people may be allergic to cow’s milk but able to tolerate goat’s milk. Human milk is obviously the least allergenic milk for humans, as it is “designed” specifically for our bodies. The closer a milk is in composition to human milk, the lower the probability of allergenicity.

I elaborate on this in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Here is an excerpt from the section in that book on goat milk:

“Goat milk is slightly closer in composition to human milk than cow milk is, with proteins that may be easier to digest. It is estimated that 20 to 40% of milk allergic individuals do not react to goat milk. However, milk allergic individuals should obtain an allergy test prior to trialing, as most people who are allergic to cow milk have similar reactions to goat milk. Plus, a rare few are in fact more allergic to [the casein or whey in]goat milk.

The lactose levels in goat milk versus cow milk are very similar (4.1% and 4.7% respectively), so lactose intolerant individuals might experience little to no relief from making the switch.”

Nonetheless, there are some additional benefits and pitfalls when looking at goat milk versus cow milk products. I discuss these in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook as well as the upsides and downsides of sheep milk, camel milk, mare milk, and even donkey milk. You will likely be quite surprised by some of the information on each, as they are not identical by any means.

Whether or not these foods are “okay” for you to eat, is completely up to you and the reasons you are excluding dairy from your diet. Chapter 1 (entitled “What is Dairy?”) in Go Dairy Free should help you to make a confident decision on this issue. It is extensive and goes into quite a bit more detail on this topic.

Of course, if you are cutting out dairy in an effort to follow the vegan diet (a diet free of animal products), then goat and sheep milk products would still be a no-go.

 

Alisa Fleming is the founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. In addition to her own dairy-free lifestyle, Alisa has experience in catering to the needs of various special diets, including gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan, and multiple food allergies.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

7 Comments

  1. You mentioned human milk being most tolerable and made for humans, as a lactating mom I am interested in this topic, would you believe or suggest that replacing the dairy we consume and instead serving human milk to other members of my family besides my baby, including myself is really nutritionally beneficial and a good idea? My husband and I are interested in the discussion of this topic..,

    • I’m really not sure and would have to see some research on this topic, but from what I have read, I would think not. All animals naturally wean from milk, even from their own species and don’t continue to nurse past a certain growth stage. This natural occurrence alone says something to me. Also, I believe all breast milk, whether from cows or humans, contains growth hormone that is intended for … growth. This hormone has been potentially linked to the higher incidence of hormonal cancers in adults who consume dairy. Again, I’m not advising, but my opinion would be that milk is intended for the growth phase of life – and with that, I wouldn’t be sure at what stage in life (if after weaning) it would still be a good idea.

  2. This article says most mammal milk, and later mentions human milk but never answers this question directly so out of pure curiousity, is human milk classified as dairy too?

    • At this time, we don’t run human dairy farms, so it’s a bit of a moot point :) Human milk is a complete different topic with another array of considerations. But for infants who are not lactose intolerant and who are not reacting to their mother’s milk due to her diet, doctors typically recommend mother’s milk as the best nutrition.

  3. Hello
    I wonder if someone could kindly get back to me re the following please!
    I recently purchased some goats butter (only yesteday) as an alternative to Margarine.
    I do not like standard cows butter but wondered if goats butter is lower in fat than most other spreads. I am not sure what is good and what isn’t as advertising is all so misleading.
    I am also trying to change my diet somewhat as I am experiencing a lot of Perimenopausal symptoms. I have been advised to cut out certain foods.
    I was advised that Margarine is not really good for us as it is so processed but surely it can’t be that bad for us!
    Do you have a leaflet on Goats products you could possibly send me? I love goats cheese but not sure how much is good for me!
    I would be so grateful to you.
    Best wishes
    V Scola.

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