Yorkshire is becoming the leading region in goats' milk products
PUBLISHED: 00:41 17 July 2013
There's growing interest in goat products in Yorkshire, with goats' milk, yoghurt and cheeses topping the list, says Annie Stirk, our food and drink consultant
Summer’s here and we’re all screaming for ice cream be it rum and raisin, raspberry ripple, tutti-frutti – but what about goat? While of course the lively four hoofed creatures aren’t actually making it into the ice-cream – their milk certainly is, and the ice cream, launched this month by two Yorkshire companies with a combined heritage of over half a century, is one of a myriad of goats’ milk products that are taking the UK’s dairy counters by storm. And Yorkshire, it seems, is at the heart of this goat revolution.
Twenty years ago, goats’ milk barely registered within UK general milk sales and, while it was the milk of choice for the rest of the world – particularly in developing countries where it is widely used to feed malnourished communities – Britain has been very slow to catch on. But more adventurous palates, the health claims associated with goats’ milk as opposed to the rising levels of allergies to cows’ milk, and improved farming methods have begun to convince consumers to give it a go.
Recent studies have shown that goats’ milk is one of Britain’s fastest growing dairy products with retail analysts suggesting the industry is now worth more than £50million a year. And it hasn’t stopped there; sales of goats’ milk cheeses are now also outstripping that of cows’ milk cheese.
Celebrity chefs have certainly helped turn the tide.
At Yellison Farm Goats’ Cheese based in Carleton in Craven, near Skipton, Stephen Akrigg has developed a variety of semi-hard, soft, and spreadable goats’ milk cheeses – including a soft cheese log or ‘Crowdie’ based on a Scottish recipe, favoured by Michelin star chefs Nigel Howarth and Michael Caines, and even served up to David Cameron during 2012’s Olympic banquet. Yelliison cheeses have won numerous Great Taste awards and starred in their own show with Ade Edmondson on ITV’s The Dales. Other cheese makers across Yorkshire are reaping the benefits of the growing interest in goats’ milk products with Ribblesdale, Swaledale and the Lowna Dairy, in Raywell all making their own distinct varieties.
But for St Helen’s Dairy in Seaton Ross, its 15-year-old goats’ milk business has taken a completely different turn with the launch of its new goats’ milk ice cream, delicately flavoured with Madagascan vanilla, which will soon be available in Waitrose.
‘Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves that the farm has grown as much as it has,’ says Angus Wielkopolski, who has been running the dairy – one of the UK’s leading suppliers of goats’ milk, cheese and butter – with wife Kathleen since the 1980s. ‘When we started 27 years ago most of the goats’ milk you could buy came from smallholders.’ The St Helen’s Dairy herd has grown from an initial 500 milking goats to more than 3,000.
The idea for the ice-cream came from their 40,000 plus loyal customers. ‘People regularly get in touch with us and by far the most requested new product is the ice cream,’ says Angus. So the team at St Helen’s got together with dairy ice cream manufacturers Yorvale in Acaster Malbis to have a go.
It’s made in a very similar way to cows’ milk ice cream, simply adding fresh goats’ milk instead, but the challenge lay in getting the flavour just right. ‘I was surprised by the lovely mild flavour of the goats’ milk so there was no worries about it being too strong, but cow’s milk tends to have a creamier consistency so we had to keep taste testing to get the balance right,’ says Yorvale’s recipe development director Lesley Buxton. ‘At first we made it too sweet but then we tweaked it and got the taste just right.’
Whether goats’ milk ice cream becomes a hit still remains to be seen but the popularity of goats’ milk products cannot be denied. Angus and others like him believe it is down to what they see as the milk’s health benefits.
Many of St Helen’s customers are allergic to cows’ milk and with more people than ever reporting allergies, goats’ milk is considered by many as a good alternative. According to recent research by Sheffield Hallam University, the differences in fat, protein and sugar compositions may make digesting goats’ milk easier than cows’ milk for many people and less likely to cause signs of intolerance including irritable bowel syndrome, catarrh, asthma and eczema. Research has shown that goats’ milk may also contain higher levels of six out of the 10 essential amino acids and exceed cows’ milk in its content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Couple this with a study by the University of Granada which found goats’ milk contained a significant amount of oligosaccharides compounds that act like prebiotics, enhancing the growth of healthy gut flora, it’s easy to see why people are making the switch to goats’ milk, yoghurt, cheese and maybe even ice cream.
Of course, while not all the health claims surrounding goats’ milk have been thoroughly tested – unsurprising given the youth of the industry in Britain – for farmers like Angus and Stephen it’s an encouraging trend. ‘What’s most rewarding is the encouraging feedback from our customers,’ says Angus. ‘Without our customers we would not be where we are. It’s a delight and privilege to wake up in the morning to sounds of birds singing and goats bleating and it’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come.’
Ribblesdale, Brunt Acres Rd, Hawes, 01969 667788
Its Superior White Goats’ Cheese is a silver medal winner and the company also makes an unusual blue.
Yellison Farm, Carleton, Skipton, 07711 632044, yellisonfarmgoatscheese.co.uk
Producers of goats’ milk and pasteurised whole goats’ milk cheeses. The multi-award-winning Soft Cheese Log or ‘Crowdie’ is smooth enough to spread.
St Helen’s Farm, Seaton Ross, York, 01430 861715, sthelensfarm.co.uk
More than 25 years experience goes into making this one of the major suppliers of goats’ milk, cheese and yoghurt – and now ice cream – in the UK.
Yorvale, York, 01904 706702, yorvale.co.uk
Producers of the goat ice cream for St Helen’s Farm.
Lowna Dairy, Raywell, Cottingham, 01482 670570, lownadairy.com
Multi-award-winning plain and blue cheeses often finished with a sprinkling of seasonal flavours.
Swaledale Cheese Company, Gallowfields, Richmond, 01748 824932, swaledalecheese.co.uk
Oak smoked ‘Courage’ and natural rind and waxed goats’ cheeses.