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Reconsidering goat milk

Lauren Leveque

"Feed the goats, milk the goats, walk the goats."

Josh Leveque and his family keep a few goats and time to time you’ll see an irresistible if incongruous photo of the goats at the beach.

I’ve been obsessed for a while but one night I had some wonderful fresh goat cheese Josh made and realized I had found my entry — so I went in closer, and while this Local Food Report is ostensibly about goat milk and cheese — really, it’s mostly about the goats.

"The mother is Lydia and her sister is Harriet, this is Luna and this is Stella. Harriet and Stella are wired very similarly they love attention. Stella will jump up in your lap, and then Luna and Lydia are kind of on their own terms and will come up and seek attention. It’s a hierarchy and it's a matriarchy really so they’re always kind of figuring out who’s on top and who’s next," explained Josh.

Ok, so now that you’ve met everyone let's get in the goat shed. The baby kids are kept out so they don’t try to nurse ‘cause they’ve just been weaned.

"That’s not a lot of milk… I don’t know what that’s all about. All right well, it’s been sort of inconsistent. When we first started weaning the babies we were getting about four cups a day and now it’s between two and three cups a day."

Four cups or two, Josh is always making good use of the milk: cheese, yogurt, paneer, caramel, and in addition to goats, he also raises rabbits. He is drawn not just to the idea of supplementing the family grocery bill.

Josh and two of the goats.
Lauren Leveque
Josh and two of the goats.

"Theoretically, both of those could live on native plant-foraged feed and be independent of purchased grain feed. And they’re very light on the land."

Josh added, "It’s great to sit down at the dinner table and have meat and dairy and vegetables from your yard, but I just went to the grocery store today and I spent $300 on chips and cow milk ‘cause the kids won’t drink the goat milk ‘cause they know the goats. I’m like: that is why we are raising these goats because we know the goats! But they’re eating the cheese, but they won’t touch the yogurt."

I asked Josh, If you were to do a blind taste test, there’s no way, you’d always know goat milk is goat milk.

His answer? "I don’t think so."

"Fresh goat milk? We can do it when we go up the hill. I have some fresh goat milk from today and some fresh Stoneyfield milk."

Here’s the part about reconsidering Goats milk… and we got Josh’s kids, Sadie and Noah involved.

Josh: "You and Viki are going to do a blind taste test here."

Noah: "Do I have to finish it?"

Josh: "Nope."

Noah: "It tastes like milk….I think it’s this one."

Viki: "Well if it’s that first one I like that better."

Noah: "I think this one smells less like store milk, this one smells like store milk."

Josh: "But the taste is barely perceptible? The difference?"

Noah: "It’s not very perceptible."

Viki: "Because it really doesn’t taste that different — it tastes better to me."

Lauren Leveque
Lauren Leveque
Lauren Leveque

Josh: "So the butter fat content in Nigerian Dwarf milk which is the breed we have, is higher than any other goat and cow milk."

Viki: "Oh that’s why I like it."

Josh: "So it’s creamier."

I asked Sadie her thoughts.

Sadie: "I’m worried that the goat milk is going to taste a little funky and goat cheesey ….so I had no issue tasting the goat cheese from our goats because it’s supposed taste a little funky ‘cause it’s cheese, but the milk – I’m worried that it’s gonna taste… wrong."

Viki: "It doesn’t taste goaty at all."

Sadie: "You’re right it doesn't….not at all."

Research explains that it’s pasteurization, especially ultra pasteurization that actually alters the flavor and makes it more goaty.

Fresh though, I’d forgotten how good milk can be.

Alright onto the other delicious part — cheese! Josh is a pretty casual spontaneous kind of guy but the process of this — he follows to a tee.

"It is crazy how easy this is. Just heating the milk to 86 degrees, putting it in a stainless steel bowl, putting the culture on it and just letting it sit at 75 degrees for twelve hours, and then just straining it — I was shocked by how easy it is."


Viki: "This looks good."

Josh: "Yup, that is a soft cheese with some rosemary and salt and pepper in there - so give that a shot."

Viki: "But I want you to assess it also."

Josh: "I have assessed it already and it’s amazing!"

Viki: "Wow this is delicious…."

I’ll spare you my raving about how authentic and fresh, but – you’ve got to get the milk, so let’s encourage our local farm types to get some goats.

Want more goat talk? Here are some bonus audio clips.

Poison Ivy

Viki produces WCAI's Arts and Ideas hosted by Jay Allison and is the Associate Director of Atlantic Public Media (APM), our production partners in Woods Hole. Together with Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media she produces the Sonic ID's, the Local Food Report, One Species at a Time and essays for local and national broadcast.