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Status and Prospects of Mountain Farmers
Making Cheese and Yoghurt from Sheep and Goat Milk
The land area of Greece is 35% semimountainous and 57% mountainous, a total of 92 percent (Table 5). Not surprising, the cow population of Greece is only 800,000, while goats number close to 6 million and sheep more than 10 million for only 10 million people. Total milk production per person per year is higher in other countries (Table 1), but sheep milk and goat milk production with more than 8 and 4%, respectively, of the world production from only 2% of the world's sheep and goat population, makes Greece unique among the dairy countries of the world (Table 5). Also, cheese consumption per person per year with 52 lb in Greece is by far greater than in any other country.
Greek cheeses besides Feta number at least 20 varieties according to the Greek authority, Professor Emmanuel M. Anifantakis (1991) (Table 9). They are recognized as cheeses in brine, soft cheeses, hard cheeses and whey cheeses, and differ widely in composition. They may all contain some or mostly sheep and goat milk besides cow milk. Specific chemical, microbiological and organoleptic standards for each cheese have been developed by the National Dairy Committee of Greece, and through legislation the composition and quality classification of each Greek cheese variety has been established within the categories of cheeses which ripen, very hard, hard, semi-hard, soft; cheeses without ripening; and whey cheeses (Anifantakis, 1991).
Uniqueness of Sheep and Goat Milk
Differences in composition between goat and sheep milk are also found in lipids, amino acids and minor constituents beyond the gross composition. These have considerable influence on flavor and taste development of yogurt and cheeses made from different proportions of the two milks and can be used for distinguishing varieties of cheeses. This can also be utilized to considerable market advantage, when identifying and labeling certain brands of cheese made only from a certain region. Efforts to improve yields of milk and cheese by changing breeds and species and by modifying grazing and feeding systems must be tempered, however, by the market demand and the main goal of a decent net return to the farmer.
Creating A Market Demand
The U.S. goat cheese production on a commercial scale was essentially non-existent 15 years ago (Haenlein, 1996). Today an estimated 12,000 goat milk is produced into various types of goat cheeses, mostly of the French soft-type chevre, but market demand is exceeding market supply. There is still goat cheese imported, from France alone more than 600 t/year, because of the created new demand.
The milk market from sheep and goats has essentially 3 facets (Haenlein, 1996):
2. gourmet interest, natural food stores, distinguished restaurants,
3. medical needs.
Facet (2) is a fast-growing market phenomenon, fostered by much favorable publicity in up-scale food, connoisseur and gourmet magazines. Restaurant interests in the growing demand for fancy salads on the menu use much Feta, Chevre, Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheeses. Greek salad is a widely recognized special salad, which of course must include Feta cheese. Facet (3) is not well researched but has widely accepted anecdotal backing (Mack, 1952; Nestle, 1987; Haenlein, 1992). Cow milk allergy in a Swedish study (Host et al., 1988) has been reported to be at a level of 7 – 8 percent of the population. In the USA there is an estimated medical need of 1 person in 1,000, which is probably on the low side, but at least 1 liter per week already translates into an annual potential market of 12,000 tons goat milk. Dairy sheep farmers in England are also promoting their milk as an alternative to cow milk allergy (Gloria Mills, personal comm). In the absence of widely available fresh goat or sheep milk, much of this market is supplied by goat milk powder from California or New Zealand.
Values for Human Nutrition
2. milk proteins have different molecules from cow milk proteins, forming a softer curd on digestion or cheese making,
3. milk fat in goat and sheep milk and cheeses has significantly higher contents in short chain, medium chain, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids than cow milk and its cheeses (Table 10).
These differences have not been used much in promotion of goat and sheep milk products, especially not the unique item (3). The medical and pediatric literature, however, has much interesting documentation for the treatment benefits with medium chain fatty acids in cases of malabsorption syndromes, premature-infant feeding, cholesterolemia, gallstones, cystic fibrosis (Greenberger and Skillman, 1969; Kalser, 1971; Babayan, 1981), which have not been but strongly deserve to be utilized to justify the special market niche of goat and sheep milk. Sheep and goat cheeses with their higher contents of medium chain fatty acids than cow milk cheeses have a superior value in human nutrition, because the medium chain fatty acids are directly used as energy in human metabolism instead of deposited as fat in tissues like the longer chain fatty acids, and they lower, limit or inhibit cholesterol deposition (Schwabe et al., 1964). These values can be even better appreciated when tables of composition are on the basis of dry matter composition (Table 10) rather than on the incomparable as-fresh basis (Table 4, 9, 10).
Challenges To Mountain Farmers
However, one of the more recent challenges to sheep and goat milk marketing and its products comes from concerns in sanitary controls and the desire to install quality testing and standards. Of course, the transmission of milk borne diseases, like tuberculosis and brucellosis must assuredly and effectively be prevented. However, there is no proof that with appropriate inspections and control testing the production of raw sheep and goat milk is not totally safe (Haenlein, 1993) and their processing into yogurt and cheeses not even superior to pasteurized products.
Quality testing of any milk for commercial use today is mostly based on the regular monitoring of somatic cell counts in milk or the numbers of leukocytes, which they represent and which is indicative of the healthy, subclinical or clinical status of the mammary gland. It is now known that here again goats and sheep differ from cows and their milks (Haenlein and Hinckley, 1995). Instruments must be calibrated for goat or sheep milk to give valid results and total somatic cell counts must be corrected for true leukocyte counts. In addition, a general somatic cell count for any month of the year will probably never be valid for the majority of goat or sheep milk produced on a seasonal basis, if not corrected for stage of lactation, because healthy goat and sheep udders have physiologically normally high counts at the beginning and end of lactation, and seasonally producing goat and sheep flocks produce no mixed milk but all in the beginning or middle or end of lactation. Thus applying cow milk somatic cell count standards to quality control of goat and sheep milk production is inappropriate, discriminatory, counter-productive and must be guarded against clearly in any regulatory code.
In conclusion, sheep and goat mountain dairy farming is complementary to cow dairying, but provides products with unique properties in human nutrition, as a specialty food, a natural food, and a medically valuable food, which deserve their own market niche and a higher price, because of higher production costs. Sheep and goat farmers contribute to diversification, risk distribution and stabilization within a country's agricultural and overall economy. Sheep and goats are thus an important component of strategies in political, economic and climate risk management. Sheep and goats also are a source of emergency cash and a storage of savings. Sheep and goats are a way to start and maintain a farming business with a small amount of capital. And sheep and goats under disciplined management are a profitable way of marketing marginal natural resources without endangering the environment. Under improved genetic selection and feeding higher profits from fewer animals are easily possible. Quality milk and cheese production can be assured and monitored with somatic cell count testing, if 3 conditions are met:
2. DNA of true leukocyte testing,
3. correction for stage of lactation.
An increasing number of international conferences in the Mediterranean region in particular are making important contributions to all mountain farmers and Greek mountain farmers in particular by the focus on sheep and goat milk and cheese values and by calling attention to the need to better recognize the importance of the mountain farmer.
TABLE 1. Milk production per cow, per capita production and consumption of dairy products by select countries - 1994 (1)
(1) USDA, 1995.
TABLE 2. Changes in composition of Feta cheese during ripening (1)
(1) Veinoglou et al., 1969; Anifantakis, 1991.
TABLE 3. Changes in protein composition during ripening of Feta cheese (1)
(1) Veinoglou et al., 1969; Alichanidis et al., 1984; Anifantakis, 1991.
TABLE 4. Proximate composition of popular cheeses (1)
(1) Posati and Orr, 1976.
TABLE 5. Greek animal agriculture (1)
3.2 million sheep (31.2%) on farms with < 100 head
1.8 million goats (31.0%) " " " "
(1) FAO, 1994.
TABLE 6. Milk composition of Greek sheep and goat breeds (1)
(1) Anifantakis, 1991.
TABLE 7. Milk yield of Greek goats (1)
(1) Hatziminaoglou et al. , 1995.
TABLE 8. Production costs and returns of Greek goats (1) (2)
(1) Hatziminaoglou et al., 1995.
(2) From Greek Drachma 140 = 1 US $
TABLE 9. Composition of Greek cheeses (1)
(1) Anifantakis, 1991.
(2) Cow milk, 60 days ripened.
(3) 90 days ripened.
(4) Sheep milk, 90 days ripened.
TABLE 10. Differences in fat composition (1)
(1) Posati and Orr, 1976.
About the author: The following references are attributed to this article:
Alichanidis, E. Anifantakis, E., Polychroniadou, A. and Nanou, M., 1984. J. Dairy Res. 51: 141.
Anifantakis, E., 1991. Greek Cheeses. Nat. Dairy Comm. of Greece, Athens, 96 pp.
Babayan, B.A. 1981. Medium chain length fatty acid esters and their medical and nutritional applications. J. Amer. Oil Chem. Soc. 59: 49A.
El Aich, A., Landau, S., Bourbouze, A., Rubino, R. and Morand-Fehr, P., 1995. Goat Production Systems in the Mediterranean. Wageningen Pers, Netherlands, EAAP Publ. 71, 239 pp.
FAO, 1994. Production Yearbook. FAO, Rome 1995: 48, 243 pp.
Greenberger, N.J. and Skillman, T.G. 1969. Medium chain triglycerides. Physiologic considerations and clinical implications. New England J. Med. 280: 1045.
Haenlein, G.F.W., 1992. Role of goat meat and milk in human nutrition. Proc. 5th Int. Conf. on Goats (R.M.Acharya, ed.), ICAR, New Delhi, India, Indian Agr. Res. Serv. Publ. Recent Advances in Goat Production II(2): 575.
Haenlein, G.F.W., 1993. Producing quality goat milk. Int. J. Animal Sci. 8: 79.
Haenlein, G.F.W., 1996. Status and prospects of the dairy goat industry in the United States. J. Animal Sci. 74: 1173. Haenlein, G.F.W. and Hinckley, L.S., 1995. Goat milk somatic cell count situation in USA. Int. J. Animal Sci. 10: 305.
Hatziminaoglou, J., Zervas, N.P. and Boyazoglu, J. 1995. Goat production systems in the Mediterranean area: the case of Greece. In: Goat Production Systems in the Mediterranean, A. El Aich et al., ed., Wageningen Pers, Wageningen, Netherlands, EAAP Publ. 71, 82 - 109.
Homer, 1956. Odyssee. Tempel Verlag, Darmstadt, 359 pp.
Host, A., Husby, S. and Osterballe, O., 1988. A prospective study of cow's milk allergy in exclusively breast-fed infants. Acta Paediatr. Scand. 77: 663.
Kalser, M.H.1971.Medium chain triglycerides.Adv.Intern.Med.17:301.
Kosikowski, F. 1977. Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods. F.V. Kosikowski & Assoc. Publ., Brooktondale, N.Y., 711 pp.
Mack, P.B., 1952. A preliminary nutrition study of the value of goats' milk in the diet of children. Yearbook, Amer. Goat Soc., Inc., Mena, Arkansas, p. 106.
Nestle, W., 1987. Allergy to cow milk proteins. Med. Enfance 9:163.
Posati, L.P. and Orr, M.L., 1976. Composition of Foods, Dairy and Egg Products. Agr. Handbook No. 8-1, USDA-ARS, Washington, D.C., 144 pp.
Schwabe, A.D., Bennett, L.R. and Bowman, L.P., 1964. Octanoic acid absorption and oxidation in humans.J.Appl.Physiol.19:335.
USDA, 1995. Milk Facts. Milk Industry Foundation, Washington, D.C., 53 pp.
Veinoglou, B., Kalatzopoulos, G., Stamelos, N. and Anifantakis, E., 1969. Deltio Agrotikis Trapezis 168/1.
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