PRODUCE

More and more artisan producers are popping up in the UK making fantastic products from sheep milk

History

Sheep have been milked for thousands of years, long before our ancestors ceased to be hunter-gatherers, when nomadic flocks were walked from pasture to pasture and no settled dwellings existed as we know them today. The shepherds of that time were so dependent on their sheep for their livelihood that many  biblical allegories are based on sheep and lambs.

The commercial dairy sheep industry is now concentrated around the Mediterranean Sea and in the Middle East and North Africa. Each region has developed its own breed of dairy sheep to suit the local environment: the East Friesian of Germany, the Lacaune in France, the British Milksheep and the Friesland in Britain, the Chios of Greece, the Sarda in Italy, and the Awassi and the Assaf in Israel.

Most of the sheep milk produced is made into cheese and each region has developed its own special brand of cheese: Roquefort in France, Feta in Greece, Pecorino Romano and Ricotta in Italy, Casu marzu in Sardinia, Etorki in the Basque Pyrenees, Pag Island cheese from Croatia, Telemea in Romania, Torta del Casar and Zamorano from Spain – to name but a few!

There are about two hundred sheep dairy farms in Britain, milking some 20,000 ewes. We have a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of the growing interest in sheep milk from the point of view of its health benefits and the superb taste of the products themselves: milk, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream. Any expansion needs to be properly managed with a well-prepared plan, and the BSDA is currently working on this with its members and other sections of the sheep industry.

Composition and nutrition of sheep milk

One of the most important characteristics of sheep milk is that it is naturally homogenised. The very small size of the fat globules means that they remain mixed evenly throughout the milk rather than rising to the top like cream. This makes the milk easy to digest. It also means that sheep milk can be frozen and when it is defrosted it remains in its natural state and can be drunk or made into cheese as if it had just been freshly produced.

Sheep milk is the most nutritious milk on sale in the world today. It is gentle on the digestive system and contains nearly double (and in some cases more than double) the amount of solids found in either goat or cow milk.

Sheep milk is richer in vitamins A, B and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than cow milk. It has a higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids. The fat globules in sheep milk are smaller than those in cow milk, making sheep milk more easily digested.

Sheep milk has more conjugated linoleic acid than the milk from goats, cows and humans.

Sheep milk has a higher solids content than goat or cow milk. As a result, more cheese can be produced from a litre of sheep milk than a litre of goat or cow milk. Sheep milk yields between 18% and 25% cheese, whereas goat and cow milk yield only about 9% to 10%.

The composition of sheep milk is superior to goat and cow milk, especially in the differences of critical substances like protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins B6 and B12 and vitamin D, the medium chain amino acids, linoleic acids and all 10 of the essential amino acids.

Sheep milk out-performs goat and cow milk in almost all areas: it has 44% more energy than cow milk, 45% more protein than cow milk, 50% more iron than cow or goat milk, 38% more calcium, 90% more folic acid than goat milk (similar levels in cow milk), 50% more vitamin B12 than cow milk and higher levels of vitamins A, D, E and C than both cow and goat milk.

Health properties of Sheep milk

Sheep milk is dairy-intolerant-friendly. A study in the UK of 206 individuals  (195 of whom were intolerant and 11 of whom were tolerant to cow’s milk), demonstrated the advantage of using sheep milk for treatment of food allergies and symptoms associated with them. The individuals who were intolerant to cow’s milk listed other dairy products such as custard, chocolate, yogurt, milk puddings, butter, cheese, cream and ice cream. Symptoms noted most frequently were diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, headache, irritability, stomach ache, bloating, skin rash, eczema, nasal congestion, migraine (and hyperactivity in childhood).

Of the 206 participants in the study, tolerance of sheep milk was near unanimous: 99% tolerating sheep milk, with 83% preferring it. Other milk substitutes (soya, goat, rice, oats, coconut, almond) gave responses of approximately 36%, leaving sheep milk as the product most relied upon in the one year observation study. It is remarkable that the multiplicity and severity of allergic symptoms produced by cow’s milk were relieved by the simplistic substitution of sheep milk. Other time-honoured comparative substitutes were much less satisfactory, averaging 36%.

In conclusion, the study found that sheep milk represents a significant breakthrough as a milk substitute in cow’s milk allergy and intolerance, along with a high rate of acceptance.

The level of zinc in sheep milk, (0.85%, compared with goat’s milk 0.34% and cow’s milk 0.3%), and calcium, (210 in sheep milk, compared with goat’s milk 132 and cow’s milk 110) provides the tools to fight the scourge of osteoporosis.  Furthermore, calcium absorption is essential for many body functions, including maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis with aging.

Bottled drinking milk

More and more people are drinking sheep milk, not only for health reasons but also for enjoyment as soon as they have tasted sheep milk for the first time.

Because sheep milk is naturally homogenised it can be sold frozen and when the bottles are thawed out the milk will revert to its original, natural state as if it had just been freshly produced. The advantage of buying frozen sheep milk is that it has a much longer shelf life than fresh milk and can be stored in a freezer until used.

Cheese

Cheese is produced in a wide range of flavours, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It includes proteins and fat from milk and during production the milk is usually acidified and then, when the enzyme rennet is added this causes coagulation. The solids are then separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have moulds on the rind or even throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Cheese is by far the main product made from sheep milk in Britain and the main types are blue cheese, hard cheese, semi-hard cheese and semi-soft cheese. Unlike most continental countries, there are so far no regional sheep milk cheeses in Britain, whereas there are regional cow’s milk cheeses (Cheddar, Stilton and Wensleydale are good examples).

You can find details of all the cheeses produced by members of BSDA if you click on the links to their websites on the BSDA 'Producers' page. Some of our members offer cheese-making courses which are educational and inspiring.

Yoghurt

The bacteria which are used to make yogurt are called yogurt cultures. Fermentation of lactose by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on the milk protein to give yoghurt its texture and characteristic tang. The fact that sheep milk is naturally homogenised means that it produces smooth, creamy, delicious yoghurt.

There are only a few producers of sheep milk yoghurt in Britain and you can find them in the 'Producers' section of this website or by Googling sheep milk yoghurt on the World Wide Web.

Ice cream

The ice cream market is very competitive and seasonal and difficult to break into. There are plenty of ice cream products on the market which in fact contain no milk or cream but which do contain a large proportion of fat of some kind or other, as well as other unhealthy ingredients.

However, there is a handful of successful sheep milk ice cream makers who are holding their own against the giants in the industry, because sheep milk ice cream is much healthier than many of the factory-produced varieties, and sheep milk ice cream contains no added fats or other artificial flavouring or additives. Details of our ice cream makers can also be found on the 'Producers' section.

Kefir

Kefir is a unique cultured dairy product that is one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet and has incredible medicinal benefits for healing issues like leaky gut.

Its unique name comes from the Turkish work “keif”, which means “good feeling”.

For centuries, it has been used in European and Asian folk medicine due to the wide variety of conditions it has been known to cure. When made correctly, it is one of my favourite drinks and, after reading this article, I hope that you consider including it into your regular natural health regimen.  Source:https://draxe.com/kefir-benefits/ for more info click on the link.

SHEEP MILK 
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