Sheep Milk Products

Sheep milk products possess the unique flavor and textural characteristics of some of the sheep milk components, especially from fat and protein. The short-chain (C4 C12) and branched-chain fatty acids contribute many of the distinctive flavors to manufactured sheep

Table 1 Average gross composition of sheep, goat, and cow milk

Sheep

Goat

Cow

Fat, %

7.1

4.1

3.8

Protein, %

5.8

3.4

3.3

Lactose, %

4.6

4.6

4.7

Ash, %

0.92

0.80

0.72

Total solids, %

18.42

12.90

milk products. Flavor and functional characteristics of sheep milk products may vary widely due to the seasonal nature of the milk supply.

Yogurt

With the high solids of sheep milk, sheep yogurt possesses high gel strength and minimal syneresis compared to cow or goat yogurt. With the high fat content of sheep milk, yogurt produced from unhomogenized milk tends to form a creamy layer on the top surface of cup-set yogurt. Since sheep milk production is very seasonal, yogurt can be produced from frozen sheep milk that has been frozen and stored below — 20°C for less than 12 months.[8] Sheep yogurt, with high titratable acidity, may tend to have a slighty grainy body and texture due to the high level of calcium present in the sheep milk.

Cheese

Sheep milk will yield significantly more cheese due to the high solids content. Sheep milk will have a cheese yield of 16 22% in comparison to 10% for cow milk.[4] Since calcium is high in sheep milk, added calcium chloride is not required in the cheesemaking process with sheep milk. Also, less rennet or chymosin is needed to produce a satisfactory curd from sheep milk, as compared to cow or goat milk. Unlike cow milk, the p-casein in sheep milk does not reassociate at the surface of the micelle or diffuse into the interior under cold storage conditions.1-9-1 Accordingly, sheep milk from cold storage should not have

Table 2 Average distribution of the various nitrogen fractions in milk

In % of total N

Sheep

Goat

Cow

Casein

78.5

75.6

77.8

Whey protein

16.8

15.7

17.0

Nonprotein N

4.7

8.7

Table 3 Average mineral content of sheep, goat, and cow milk (100 g)

Sheep

Goat

Cow

Calcium (mg)

193

134

119

Iron (mg)

0.10

0.05

0.05

Magnesium (mg)

18

14

13

Phosphorus (mg)

158

111

93

Potassium (mg)

136

204

152

Sodium (mg)

44

50

49

Zinc (mg)

0.57

0.30

impaired rennet coagulation rates or lack of firmness of the gel. Sheep milk will produce a firmer curd than cow and goat milk and the rate of whey expulsion from the curd is slower than the other species milk. Cheese produced from sheep milk tends to be crumbly in body throughout the aging process, whereas that produced from cow milk becomes more crumbly with age.[10]

Whey

Sheep whey generally has 10 15% more solids than cow and goat whey. Typical whey protein composition is shown in Table 4.

Sheep whey protein concentrates have been reported to have significantly better foam overrun, foam stability, and gel strength than cow or goat whey protein concentrates. These characteristics may be due to the higher p-lactoglobulin content and lower ash content of sheep whey protein concentrates.[11]

Butter

Sheep milk fat has a lower iodine number than cow milk fat and is much firmer than cow milk fat,[2] thus producing a harder, more brittle butter. Sheep milk fat also does not contain as many carotenoids as cow milk fat and the white color of sheep butter is slightly unappealing for some markets.

Table 4 Whey protein distribution in sheep, goat, and cow whey (% of total protein)

Whey protein

Sheep

Goat

Cow

ß lactoglobulin

74.0%

58.6%

64.9%

a lactalbumin

14.8

27.0

15.6

Serum albumin

4.1

4.0

6.5

Immunoglobulin

7.3

9.7

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