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Goat milk

By: Takeshi Shimabukuro

Date Posted: 2001-10-23

Goat soup is traditionally served at various festive events, and served raw – as sashimi – it is considered a delicacy. Goat soup is often served before or after the athletic events as the meat is high in energy, and it is said to be the best cure for a hangover and thus served after drinking parties. However, most Okinawans are not so familiar with its milk.

People in their 50s and older may have some hazy memories from the past of drinking goat milk as children. Many doctors say that, for small babies, goat milk is far better alternative to cow’s milk when mother’s milk is not available. Right after the war, U.S. military provided many Okinawan children goat milk because of its high nutritional value.

After WWII in 1947, Pastor Herbert Nicholson of LARA (Licensed Agencies for the Relief in Asia) introduced about 200 goats to Okinawa. Over the following years another 2,615 goats were brought in by LARA to produce goat milk. The Okinawans popularly called those goats “LARA goats.”

Although there are many successful restaurants in Okinawa that specialize in goat soup and other goat meals, especially in the middle and northern parts of the island, Hagoromo Bokujo (Ranch) in Nakagusuku Village is the only commercial producer of goat milk here.

“People who were children during that time obviously have memories of goat milk and that’s why the idea of drinking goat milk is not completely alien,” says Masahide Shinjo, the president of Hagoromo Bokujo.

Shinjo and his staff are working hard to promote goat milk, and gradually are getting results. “We have a group of volunteers who have been drinking goat milk in place of cow milk for three to four months. We have contracted a medical team to monitor the effects, and have discovered that consuming goat milk has positive effects on their skin condition and lowers the level of sugar in their blood. Overall, those people said that they felt better in many ways,” Shinjo says.

He cited a specific case of a housewife from Urasoe City who reported that her daughter suffering from dermatitis was almost completely cured after drinking goat milk daily for three months. She said that her itching disappeared, and her dry skin became much smoother and beautiful. Another example is a salaried worker from Naha City who had a high blood sugar level. After drinking a cup of goat milk a day for four months, his blood sugar level was lowered from 191 to 114.

Shinjo says that people, who are allergic to cow milk, do no have allergic symptoms after drinking goat milk. He says that the evidence suggests that goat milk is effective to various symptoms. However, he is quick to point out that goat milk’s efficiency to health is not proven by formal medical tests, at least not yet. Shinjo defines that at least goat milk is a super nutritious food supplement, and provides plenty of nutrition without allergic reaction some people have when drinking cow milk.

Goat milk is easy to digest and contains abundant various minerals. It contains much more proteins than cow milk, but it does not have the protein called casein that is said to cause the allergic reaction in some people. Goat milk contains 20 times more taurine than cow milk. Human body uses taurine to control the quantity of cholesterol. Goat milk is also rich in minerals, such as calcium and potassium, and vitamins A and B2. No wonder many doctors consider goat milk as a valuable substitute to cow’s milk.

In Europe, goat milk is often processed to cheese or yogurt rather than sold as milk. Especially, goat cheeses are produced in several districts of France, and are regarded as the best accompaniment for high-grade wines. Goat cheese generally is two to three times more expensive than cow milk cheese. In the U.S.A., goat milk is often recommended for persons suffering allergies.

Currently Hagoromo Bokujo keeps more than 100 goats of all ages. 20 to 30 adult female goats in the farm produce about 2,000 bottles of goat milk a week. According to Shinjo, the farm has plans to increase the production to 7,000 bottles a week in two years. A goat produces only two liters milk a day, or about one tenth of a cow, and that’s one reason that makes it difficult to produce goat milk in commercial quantity.

Hagoromo Bokujou ranch has also experimented in making goat milk ice cream. It tastes rich and thick and has a faintly creamy white color.

The real taste of the milk is rich, but it completely lacks the smell that is very noticeable in goat soup and other goat products.

Goats are kept as livestock or domestic animals in Japan’s other prefectures also. The animals that are no more able to produce milk are slaughtered for meat. Shinjo stresses that “Okinawan people have to think of new ways of eating goat. We have to make better use of the rich proteins of goat products. A goat is precious livestock.”

To promote goat as a valuable livestock in the national scale, a goat summit has been organized twice, the first in Miyazaki, and the second in Okinawa in 1999. At the meetings, participants discussed about such topics as the improving of raising methods, and educating children about the importance of goat. The All Japan Goat Network was also established.

Goat milk is currently available in Okinawa at JA operated supermarkets (A-Coop). For further info on goat milk sold in Okinawa, call 098-899-2851. For more info on the All Japan Goat Network, call 099-285-8592.

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