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Is Goat Cheese a Dairy Product?

There are many similarities between goat’s milk and cow’s milk, but there are also some differences that may be important to people with dairy-related dietary restrictions. The similarities mean that most kinds of cheese made with cow’s milk can also be made with goat’s milk. The differences mean that some people with lactose intolerance, dairy allergy, or other dietary considerations may be able to eat goat cheese. Is goat cheese dairy? Keep reading to find out.

Definition of “Dairy”

A dairy product is generally considered to be anything made of the milk of an animal. Because goat cheese is made of goat’s milk, it is technically a dairy product. However, most people who want to know if goat cheese is dairy are really wondering if it has the same properties as other cheeses, made from cow’s milk, that they are unable to eat.

Lactose Intolerance, Dairy Allergy, and Goat Cheese

Lactose intolerance and dairy allergy are two different beasts. If you are lactose intolerant, you are unable to consume products made with cow’s milk because you have trouble digesting lactose, or milk sugar. If you have a milk or dairy allergy, you are unable to consume these same products because your immune system reacts negatively to milk proteins (caseins and/or whey).

Because goat’s milk and cow’s milk have different lactose and protein contents, people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies may be able to consume products made of goat’s milk even though they are unable to consume products made of cow’s milk.

Amount of Lactose in Goat’s Milk vs. Cow’s Milk

Is goat cheese lactose free? No. But it might contain less lactose than cheese made of cow’s milk, so it may be easier to tolerate for some people.

According to the Dairy Research and Information Center (DRINC) at the University of California in Davis, the concentration of lactose in goat’s milk is usually lower than in cow’s milk. The DRINC also points out, however, that inconsistent methods of measuring lactose levels in goat milk create some uncertainty. Also, different goat breeds and even different animals within the same breed may produce milk with varying lactose levels. Still, the average amount of lactose in goat’s milk is generally reported to be slightly lower than what’s in cow’s milk.

Milk Proteins in Goat’s Milk vs. Cow’s Milk

All milk contains several different kinds of proteins, but no two mammal species produce milk with the same combination and concentration of proteins. Because a person may be allergic to one or more of the proteins in cow’s milk, that same person may or may not encounter the same problem with goat’s milk.

According to the DRINC, there are some similarities and some key differences between the proteins contained in goat’s and cow’s milk. The proteins in each are composed of similar amino acids, in similar amounts. Structurally, however, the proteins are quite different. Because of this structural difference, the proteins in goat’s milk may not trigger an allergic reaction, even in someone with a milk allergy.

Conclusions

Is goat cheese dairy? Yes. Goat cheese is a dairy product, and it does contain lactose and milk proteins. If you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, then you could potentially have the same problems with goat cheese as you do with products made of cow’s milk. However, the differences between these products might be enough to make goat cheese a good alternative for you.

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Sources:

Bruhn, John C., “Dairy Goat Milk Composition,” The Dairy Research and Information Center.

Hurley, Walter L., “Milk Composition – Proteins,” Milk Composition amp; Synthesis Resource Library.

“Lactose Intolerance,” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, NIH.

“Milk Allergy,” KidsHealth.org.