By the recommendations of the project evaluation committee, the shelf-life and food safety parameters of commercial soft goat cheeses produced in Georgia were evaluated during the initial phase of the project. However, implementation of the research had been delayed more than one year due to the problems of employment of the Research Associate. Effects of refrigerated and frozen storage on shelf-life of commercial soft goat milk cheeses were evaluated in relation to microbiological, physico-chemical, and rheological characteristics during the first 2 years. Although some variations were observed between lots of the cheeses, coliforms and E. coli counts were non-detectable, while non-coliforms such as Pseudomonas were present. No Staphylococcus aureus were detected, whereas unidentified presumptive Staphylococcus species may exist. Cohesiveness of the cheeses significantly decreased, while viscoelastic properties remained unchanged as storage progressed. Yeast and mold counts were inversely correlated with cohesiveness.
The 2nd and 3rd phases of the project were focused on the feasibility of freezing and 3 months frozen-storage of goat milk cheeses for later marketing. Impacts of freezing on storage stability and shelf life of commercial plane soft and PI’s university manufactured Monterey Jack semi-hard goat cheeses were evaluated for the changes in organic acid profiles, sensory properties, rheological and microbiological characteristics with reference to fresh control. Freezing did not have significant adverse effects on nutritional, organic acids, sensory properties, and generally reduced microbial counts compared with the nonfrozen control cheeses. No significant adverse effects of 3 months frozen-storage were observed on nutritional and sensory properties of the two cheeses, although there were some changes in organic acids, rheological indices and microbial populations in comparison with the nonfrozen control goat cheeses.
For the final phase of the project, the research was aimed at evaluation of the feasibility of 6 month extended frozen-storage of goat milk cheeses for the year-round consistent marketing. Food qualities of plain soft and Monterey Jack semi-hard goat cheeses by the extended frozen-storage were evaluated for quantitative changes in chemical, organic acids, rheological, microbial and sensory scores as well as fatty acid composition. Although there were some significant changes in organic acid and fatty acid compositions, rheological and microbiological indices in comparison with the nonfrozen control cheeses, six months extended frozen-storage showed minimal impact on nutritional and sensory qualities of the initial cheeses. It was concluded that the frozen-storage would be feasible for later marketing of goat cheeses for sustainable dairy goat production if the processing parameters are tightly controlled.
After awarding the project funds, the objectives and performance targets of the project were changed somewhat at the initial phase due to the recommendations of the project planning committee through its first committee meeting. This modification of the proposed research for the first year would enable the investigators to gather practical and applicable research data, which would be highly useful for dairy goat farmers (producers) as well as consumers. The changed project activities during the first year were as follows:
1.) Evaluate food quality and shelf-life of the commercial fresh soft goat milk cheeses produced by the Georgia dairy goat farmers,
2.) Compare the same parameters of the frozen-stored soft goat milk cheeses after 3 to 6 months at –20oC with those of the fresh cheeses for off-season marketing.
3.) Determine microbiological, rheological, nutritional and physico-chemical changes in fresh and frozen-stored soft goat cheeses in relation to the shelf-life and storage stability of the products.
For the subsequent phases of the project, more comprehensive studies have been conducted for the evaluation of soft goat cheeses in along with one or two developed hard type goat cheeses under the following objectives:
1.) Develop semi-hard and hard (Monterey Jack and Cheddar-type) goat milk cheeses using the surplus milk during the peak season, and store the cheeses at 4oC and
–20oC for different lengths of time.
2.) Study the effects of freezing and storage on food quality and shelf-life of the experimental soft and hard goat cheeses in rheological, textural, nutritional, microbiological, organic acids and flavor chemical characteristics of the products.
3.) Conduct sensory evaluation and consumer acceptability studies on the soft and
developed hard goat cheeses, and correlate the sensory scores with the results of all proposed parameters investigated under the objective 2.)
4.) Conduct economic analysis and marketing research on the goat cheese products through extensive consumer acceptability studies in order to determine the sustainability and profitability of dairy goat production.
The dairy goat farming has been one of the most disadvantageous and non-supported agricultural sectors in America, although it is vitally important for the economic sustenance of limited-resource farmers in the Southern region and across the U.S. The major constrains on the development of the dairy goat industry include: difficulties in supplying year-round goat products due to the seasonal milk production, naturally high milk somatic cell counts in goat milk, and lack of consumer perception on goat products.
The U.S. dairy goat industry has faced many challenges for its survival, including the seasonality of milk production, development of superior quality dairy goat products attractive to the consumers, competition of market share with the foreign imported goat products and cow milk products, and maintaining economically profitable agricultural sector. This SARE project was focused on enhancing profitability and sustainability of the dairy goat industry and/or limited resource dairy goat farmers by developing year-round quality goat milk cheeses through an innovative technological approach to processing the surplus goat milk produced during the peak season.
All materials and methods used for the implementation of this funded project were carried out by all the originally proposed procedures and methodologies delineated in the project descriptions submitted to the SARE program. The major procedures and methodologies performed and undertaken for the project include followings: (1) Purchase of several batches of commercial plain soft goat milk cheeses from the Grade A licensed goat dairy in Georgia and testing the proposed different food quality indices and shelf-life by evaluation of fresh and frozen-stored treated samples, (2) Development and manufacture of Monterey Jack and Cheddar-type semi-soft goat milk cheeses for testing the same food quality and storage stability parameters in comparison with those of commercial soft goat cheeses, (3) Evaluation of cheese yield and nutrient composition, (4) Evaluation of effects of freezing, frozen storage and refrigerated ripening on microbial profiles and abnormal cheese textures, (5) Evaluation of organic acids, fatty acids and volatile flavor compounds in the commercial purchased and university developed semi-hard goat cheeses, (6) Evaluation of sensory properties on all experimental cheeses, (7) Evaluation of shelf-life and physico-chemical changes in all fresh and frozen-stored experimental cheeses, (8) Evaluation of rheology of the all experimental cheeses, (9) Evaluation of consumer acceptability, marketability and economic analysis of the soft and semi-hard goat cheese products.
The first study had been initiated to undertake the objective 1. The soft goat cheeses had been purchased from a licensed goat dairy in Georgia, and evaluation of food quality and shelf-life had been conducted. The studies were repeated three times by testing three batches of cheeses that were manufactured different dates. Each batch of the cheese were subdivided into four portions, and assigned them into four treatments as nonfrozen control, 0, 3, and 6 months frozen-stored groups. The fresh control cheeses were stored for 0, 14, and 28 days at 4oC, and determined for shelf-life and food quality parameters. The frozen cheese groups were stored at –20oC for 0, 3 and 6 months, thawed next day, and stored under refrigeration at 4oC, then evaluated the effects of frozen-storage and refrigerated aging for the extended storage periods on the storage stability and food qualities of the different storage groups in the same way as the nonfrozen control samples. Finally, changes in microbiological, rheological, nutritional, flavor, organic acids, physico-chemical and sensory properties occurred in the fresh and frozen-stored soft and developed semi-hard goat cheeses were determined.
For the 2nd and 3rd phases of the project, the investigations were expanded to conduct the same lines of research experimentations for the semi-hard goat cheeses (Monterey Jack and Cheddar) developed from the Fort Valley State University dairy pilot plant. Monterey Jack cheese was aged for 6 weeks at 4oC prior to the storage experiment. Sensory evaluation of the goat cheeses toward successful marketing in relation to all other parameters, and economic analysis for the feasibility and sustainability of dairy goat farmers were integral parts of plans for these phases of the project.
All project objectives except economic analysis were implemented and conducted essential experiments at the PI and collaborators’ laboratories using commercial plain soft (PS) goat cheeses and FVSU manufactured Monterey Jack (MJ) goat cheeses with respect to food quality parameters, shelf-life and storage stability of frozen-stored and refrigerated products.
Three batches of PS and MJ cheeses were prepared, and divided into four equal portions for 6 months extended frozen-storage study. One portion was stored as nonfrozen control (NFC) at 4C for 4 weeks (0, 14, 28 days), and the other three subsamples were frozen at -20C and stored for 0 and 3 months (0MF, 3MF and 6MF), then immediately thawed at 4C, followed by aging at 4oC as was done for NFC. The impacts of 3 months frozen-storage on (1) organic acid profiles, (2) volatile and fatty acids profiles, (3) sensory properties, (4) microbiological populations, (5) rheology and (6) SDS-PAGE characteristics of proteolysis of the products were reported in the past year. The research focus of the final year was further evaluation of the previous parameters plus fatty acid compositions of the two varieties of goat cheeses. The quantification of fatty acid profiles were made possible through the approval of the purchase of a new gas chromatography (Shimadzu; GC 17-A) by the funding agency. Although the equipment was not requested in the original project, the purchase was essential for the accomplishment of the project objectives.
The PS had no pyruvic acid, while MJ contained no iso-tartaric acid, but several unknown large peaks appeared between propionic and butyric acids. Differences in organic acid contents between soft and MJ cheeses were significant (P<0.01 or 0.001) for all acids except citric and lactic acid. Lot effect was significant (P<0.01) for most of the known acids, indicating that variations existed in milk composition and manufacturing parameters. Effects of storage treatments (NFC, 0MF, 3MF and 6MF) were highly significant (P<0.01 or 0.001) for most organic acids, except for orotic and a few unidentified acids. Aging at 4oC for 4 weeks had little influence on all organic acids except butyric acid. At the initial stage, there were no differences in pH and acid degree values (ADV) between NFC and frozen-stored groups of both cheeses. However, ADVs gradually increased as the refrigerated storage extended up to 4 weeks, indicating that lipolysis increased with the extended refrigeration storage at 4oC.
With respect to the fatty acid compositions, ten different short and medium chain fatty acids were identified in both goat cheeses. Nine long chain and three trans unsaturated fatty acids (C16:1, C18:2 and 9-cis 11-trans octadecenoic acid:CLA) were also quantified. Significant (P<0.05 or 0.01) differences were found between PS and MJ cheeses in levels of C12:0, C14:0, C15:0, C16:0, C16:1, C17:0, C17:1, C18:0, C18:2, C18:3, and C20:4. Relatively few numbers of fatty acids were affected by 6 months extended frozen-storage, while batch effect was significant for many acids.
Nonfrozen control cheese had a fragile texture with values of 10.6 N for hardness, 10.1 mm for springiness, 0.10 for cohesiveness, 9.3 for chewiness, 15.9 kPa for elastic modulus, 5.28 kPa for viscous modulus, and 1.75 kPa.s for complex viscosity. Compared to fresh control, 0 month frozen samples had lower viscoelastic properties and the values decreased further as the cheeses aged. The creation and removal of ice crystals in the cheeses have more effect on the texture of the cheese than on the enzyme activity and extent of protein degradation within the cheese.
Freezing Monterey Jack cheese significantly (P<0.05) reduced lactic, orotic, citric acids, while butyric isomers significantly increased. Changes in other organic acids and their isomers in Monterey Jack were not significant, while a butyric isomer was in highest amount. Acetic and propionic acids in soft cheese were significantly (P<0.05) increased by freezing, whereas other acids were not significantly affected. Soft cheese had no pyruvic acid, while Monterey Jack contained no tartaric acid but several unknown large peaks appeared between propionic and butyric acids.
After 2 weeks storage at 4oC, cooked/milky, diacetyl, and milkfat flavors decreased while yeasty and oxidized flavors increased in soft goat cheeses (P<0.05). Fresh soft cheeses had a sensory quality shelf life of less than 1 month at 4oC. Monterey Jack cheeses maintained sensory quality throughout 4 weeks storage at 4oC. Diacetyl flavors decreased and brothy flavors increased (P<0.05) while overall freshness scores did not change. Freezing had no effect on the sensory quality of either type of cheese throughout the subsequent 4 weeks refrigerated storage.
No significant differences were found in microbial profiles between fresh and frozen-thawed cheeses for 4 wk storage, while total aerobic counts tended to decrease. E. coli, coliform, and Staphylococcus aureus in soft cheeses were non-detectable <1.0 (log cfu/g). MJ had E.coli and coliform, where fresh cheese contained higher than frozen ones, and they were reduced by aging within l (log cfu/g) deduction. Yeast counts tended to increase with aging in soft cheeses, but decreased in frozen MJ cheeses. Mold counts in both soft and MJ cheeses were similar at 3.0 (log cfu/g).
Although levels of various fatty acids and organic acids were changed in the goat cheeses, the prolonged frozen-storage upto 6 months was apparently feasible because minimal deterioration was observed in sensory quality studies. Frozen-storage method has a great potential for extending storage life of goat cheeses, where the year-round marketing of goat cheese products would be feasible.
Concerning the economic analysis of the project, we were not able to accomplish the originally planned economic/financial analysis and marketing research on the goat cheese products. Because of the inability of obtaining the actual recorded production and business data, and little availability of production, expenditure and income data from the small herd owners of dairy goat farmers in the state, any statistically meaningful analysis was not possible. Even collection of the business data from one Grade A goat dairy was not possible even if the data was initially promised before the submission of the project proposal, the change of the owner made it difficult to collect the data. However, we were able to conduct consumer acceptability studies on Monterey Jack (MJ) goat cheeses in comparison with cow milk counterparts at the large public gathering in the south eastern U.S. The consumer survey studies revealed that goat MJ cheese was equally acceptable as the corresponding cow cheese, and much more preferred among many volunteered consumer panelists.
Educational & Outreach Activities
A. Refereed Journal Papers:
1. Park, Y.W. 2000. Comparison of mineral and cholesterol composition of different
commercial goat milk products manufactured in USA. Small Rumin. Res. J. 37: 115-124.
2. Park, Y.W. 2001. Proteolysis and lipolysis of goat milk cheese. J. Dairy Sci. 84(E.Suppl.):E84-E92.
3. Imm, J.Y., E.J. Oh, K.S. Han, S, Oh, Y.W. Park, and S.H. Kim. 2003. Functionality and physico-chemical characteristics of bovine and caprine mozzarella cheeses during refrigerated storage. J. Dairy Sci. 86: 2790-2798.
4. Guo, M.R., Y.W. Park, P.H. Dixon, J.A. Gilmore, and P.S. Kindsteadt. 2004. Relationship between the yield of chevre and chemical composition of goat’s milk. Small Ruminant Res. 52: 103-107.
5. Park, Y.W., A. Kalantari, and J.F. Frank. 2004. Changes in the microflora of commercial soft goat milk cheese during refrigerated and frozen storage. Small Ruminant Res. 53:61-66.
6. Van Hekken, D.L., M.H. Tunick, and Y.W. Park. 2004. Rheological and proteolytic properties of Monterey Jack goat milk cheese during 6 months aging. J. Agric. Food Chem. 52:5372-5377.
7. Park, Y.W. and M.A. Drake. 2004. Effect of 3 months frozen-storage on organic acid contents and sensory properties, and their correlations in soft goat milk cheese. Small Rumin. Res. In Press.
8. Park, Y.W. and J.H. Lee. 2004. Effect of freezing on organic acid contents and lipolytic index of plain soft and Monterey Jack goat milk cheeses. Small Ruminant Res. In Press.
B. Published Conference Proceedings (Abstracts)
1. Park, Y.W., D.L. Van Hekken, M.H. Tunick, and V.H. Holsinger. 2000. Rheological characteristics of young Monterey Jack goat milk cheese. Proc. Int’l. Conf. on Goats, Tours, France. May 14-18, 2000.
2. Van Hekken, D.L. and Y.W. Park. 2000. Electrophoretic characterization of aging Monterey Jack goat cheese. 2000 Joint Meeting of ADSA and ASAS. Baltimore, MD. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 83. Suppl. 1. p. 83.
3. Van Hekken, D.L., M.H. Tunick, and Y.W. Park. 2000. Rheological properties of aging Monterey Jack goat cheese. 2000 Joint Meeting of ADSA and ASAS. Baltimore, MD. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 83. Suppl. 1. p. 82.
4. Guo, M.R., P.H. Dixon, Y.W. Park, J.A. Gilmore, and P.S. Kindstedt. 2000. Seasonal
changes in the chemical composition of commingled goat milk. . 2000 Joint Meeting of ADSA and ASAS. Baltimore, MD. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 83. Suppl.1. p 8.
5. Park, Y.W. 2000. Proteolysis and lipolysis of goat milk cheese. 2000 Joint Meeting of ADSA and ASAS. Baltimore, MD. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 83. Suppl. 1. p. 9.
6. Van Hekken, D.L., M. H. Tunick and Y. W. Park. 2002. Effect of frozen storage on the proteolysis and rheology of soft goat milk cheese. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 85. Suppl. 1; 254. Abst. No. 1017.
7. Park, Y.W., A. Kalantari, V. Gutta, R. Gundelly, and J.H. Lee. 2002. Comparison of
shelf-life of fresh and frozen soft goat milk cheeses in relation to the extent of proteolytic and lipolytic properties. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 85. Suppl. 1; 255. Abst. No. 1022.
8. Kalantari, A. and Y.W. Park. 2002. Effect of frozen storage on microbial changes in soft goat milk cheese compared with fresh ones. J. Dairy Sci. Vol. 85. Suppl. 1; 257. Abst. No. 1026.
9. Park, Y. W., A. Kalantari, and D. L. Van Hekken. 2002. Effects of Frozen and Fresh
Storage on Shelf-Life of Soft Goat Milk Cheeses. 2002 IFT Program Abstract No. 15B-17, p 22.
10. Park, Y.W. and Jung Hoon Lee. 2003. Impacts of Freezing and Thawing on Organic Acid Contents of Plain Soft and Monterey Jack Caprine Milk Cheeses. 9th World Conf. Animal Production, Porte Alegre, Brazil. Conf. Proc. pp. 271.
11. Lee, S.J., J.H. Lee, J. Rhodes, and Y.W. Park. 2003. Effects of 3 months frozen-storage and refrigeration on proteolysis of soft goat milk cheeses determined by SDS-PAGE and gel image analysis. The 2003 ADSA-ASAS Joint Meeting Abst.
12. Lee, S.J., J.J. Lee, A. Kalantari, V. Gutta, and Y.W. Park. 2003. Effects of freezing and thawing on chemical changes in plain soft and Monterey Jack goat milk cheeses. The 2003 IFT Proc. pp. 19. Abstract No. 14A-14.
13. Lee, J.H., S.J. Lee, A. Kalantari, and Y.W. Park. 2003. Comparison of microbial populations of unfrozen and frozen control goat cheeses with those of 3 months frozen-stored ones. The 2003 ADSA-ASAS Joint Meeting Abst. W279.
14. Van Hekken, D.L., M.H. Tunick, D.W. Olson, and Y.W. Park. 2003. Proteolysis and rheology of soft goat milk cheese after frozen storage. The 2003 ADSA-ASAS Joint Meeting Abst. No. W289.
15. Park, Y.W., S.J. Lee, J.H. Lee, and M.A. Drake. 2003. Effects of freezing and thawing on sensory properties of plain soft and Monterey Jack goat milk cheeses. The 2003 IFT Proc. pp. 269. Abstract No. 104D-14.
16. Lee, Jung H., and Young W. Park. 2004. Evaluation of impact of 6 months prolonged
frozen-storage on chemical changes in soft and hard goat cheeses. The 2004 ADSA-ASAS-PSA Joint Meeting. St. Louis, MO. July 25-29, 2004.
17. Park, Y.W., J.H. Lee, and I.C. Blackman. 2004. Effects of 6 Month Extended Frozen-
storage on Changes in Organic Acid Profiles of Plain Soft and Monterey Jack Goat Milk Cheeses. The 2004 ADSA-ASAS-PSA Joint Meeting. St. Louis, MO. July 25-29, 2004.
18. Park, Y.W. and M.A. Drake. 2004. Effects of Extended Frozen-storage and Refrigeration on Sensory Properties of Soft and Hard Goat Milk Cheeses. The 8th International Conference on Goats, Pretoria, South Africa. July 4-9, 2004.
19. Van Hekken, D.L., M. H. Tunick, and Y. W. Park. 2004. Effect of extended frozen-storage on rheological and proteolytic characteristics of Monterey Jack caprine milk cheese. The 2004 IFT Annual meeting. Las Vegas, NV. July 12-16, 2004.
20. Rhodes, J., C.O. Maduko, J.H. Lee, K.L. Arora, and Y.W. Park. 2004. Effect of 6 month frozen-storage on proteolytic characteristics of soft goat milk cheese evaluated by SDS-PAGE and gel image band analysis. The 2004 IFT Annual
meeting. Las Vegas, NV. July 12-16, 2004.
21. Gadiyaram, B.L., J.H. Lee, I.C. Blackman, and Y.W. Park. 2004. Effect of vitamin E addition on levels of conjugated dienoic acid, organic acids and lipolysis in soft cheeses made from goat milk at late stage of lactation. The 2004 IFT Annual
meeting. Las Vegas, NV. July 12-16, 2004.
22. Park, Y.W. 2004. Effects of storage on proteolysis and lipolysis of goat milk cheeses. 2004 International Symposium. The Future of The Sheep and Goat Dairy Sectors. International Dairy Federation. Zaragoza, Spain, October 28-30,
23. Park, Y.W. 2004. Effect of extended frozen-storage on food quality of goat cheeses. 2004 International Symposium. The future of The Sheep and Goat Dairy Sectors. International Dairy Federation. Zaragoza, Spain, October 28-30, 2004.
C. Other outreach activities
The outcomes of this SARE project also made significant impacts on PI and co-PIs’ scientific productivities, where they made many presentations in national and international scientific conferences as well as at least seven research papers in refereed professional journals (See attached reprint articles). The PI attended several international conferences including International Conference on Goats, Pretoria, South Africa, International Dairy Federation Science and Technology Conference, Cambridge, England, and World Animal Science Production Conference, Porto Alegre, Brazil, etc., and presented the findings of this project to the world scientific arenas. The PI and co-PIs also have disseminated and also will continue disseminate their findings to the end-users, such as, consumers, farmers, other enthusiastic clienteles, college and high school staffs and students through technical trainings, seminars, workshops and GSRREC newsletters, etc. (See attached picture).
This project evaluated food qualities of plain soft, Monterey Jack and Cheddar-type goat cheeses including chemical, nutritional, rheological, textural, microbiological and flavor chemical characteristics of the products. The cheeses were commercially purchased or manufactured at the University dairy plant, and feasibility of extending storage-life by frozen-storage was examined.
The outcomes of this project investigation showed that there were no significant differences in microbial profiles between fresh and frozen-stored cheeses, and total bacterial, yeast and mold counts in both frozen-stored cheeses were significantly decreased. Although there were some changes in organic acids profiles in frozen-stored cheeses, freezing had minimal impact on the sensory quality of either type of cheese at the initial stages of each storage treatment. The consumer acceptability studies at a large public gathering (Sunbelt Agriculture Expo) showed that goat cheeses were equally acceptable to cow counterparts. Many participants preferred to have goat Monterey Jack cheese rather than cow counterpart.
The results of this SARE project have made an important contribution to the dairy goat industry by providing the practical scientific basis for the feasibility and potential of frozen-storage of goat cheese products for off-season and year-round marketing. This outcome is extremely important and desirable for the profitability and sustainability of the dairy goat industry which has long been struggling for resolving the inherent problem of the seasonality of goat milk production. The positive findings of this project would be highly beneficial for dairy goat farmers in the Southern Region as well as end-users including consumers, food scientists, Georgia Dairy Goat Breeders Association, and other interested clienteles. The implementation of this funded project enabled us to provide FVSU students, visitors, consumers, other institution’s faculty and goat farmers with trainings on goat milk cheese processing technology and development of new value-added goat products. Many groups from private sectors, school teachers and children, and college faculty and staff members have visited our goat dairy processing facility.
Funding of this SARE LS00-114 project made substantial impacts not only on the positive findings of technology transfer for sustainable agriculture for limited resource dairy goat farmers, but on the high levels of professional development for the PI of the project. Funding of this LS00-114 project enabled the PI to participate in important International Dairy Federation (IDF) conferences in Spain and England. The PI was invited to the IDF Spain meeting (Theme: The Future of The Sheep and Goat Dairy Sectors) as a symposium speaker delivering lecture for storage effects on proteolysis and lipolysis of goat cheeses. The PI also was able to attend the IDF England meeting where he learned a 3,000 milking goat herd operation and goat products processing facilities at York which provided the PI with a high level of knowledge to share with American goat farmers. Without funding this project, the PI was not able to have these extreme rare opportunities of professional development.
The outcomes of this SARE project also made significant contributions to dissemination of scientific and technical information to several different professional journals and conferences. This project has made a great impact on PI and co-PIs’ scientific productivities, where they made many presentations in national and international scientific meetings as well as at least seven research papers in refereed professional journals. We continuously disseminate our current findings to the end-users, such as, consumers, farmers and students through trainings, workshops and newsletters.
It has been extremely difficult to perform any economic and financial analysis on dairy goat operations in Georgia (probably in other states too), partially due to the unavailability of such business data. We have not been able to accomplish the originally planned economic/financial analysis and marketing research on the goat cheese production from the private sectors. Because of the inability of obtaining the actual recorded production, sale and business data, and little availability of production, expenditure and income data from the small herd owners of dairy goat farmers in the state, any statistically meaningful analysis has not been possible. It has been a trend that small goat farmers do not have sufficient data or are not willing to expose/share their business accounting records with other people. Even collection of the business data from one Grade A goat dairy was not possible. Although the data was initially promised before the submission of the project proposal, the change of the owner made it difficult to collect the business balance sheet. However, we were able to conduct some consumer acceptability studies on Monterey Jack (MJ) goat cheeses in comparison with cow milk counterparts at large public gatherings in the south eastern U.S. The consumer survey studies revealed that goat MJ cheese was equally acceptable as the corresponding cow cheese, and much more preferred among many volunteered consumer panelists.
The financial analysis on dairy goat operation of PI’s institution (Fort Valley State University) Georgia Small Ruminant Research and Extension Center also has not been feasible and even impractical, because the FVSU is a public institution and not set up for business profits and by no means in the position of competing business against any other private and commercial dairy goat operations. We sold some MJ goat cheeses for less than half price per unit product compared to the prices of commercial goat products of corresponding or similar products sold in the retail markets. This is why the financial analysis on the FVSU’s dairy goat operation has not been possible.
On the other hand, the respective break-even price/kg goat milk in U.S. has been reported as $0.52 and $0.39 for 680 and 907 kg milk/goat/year for average herd production. The net returns/goat/year for France, Greece and Italy are reported as $125.66, $24.05 and $74.93, respectively, indicating that the dairy goat and cheese enterprises in France are much more profitable than the other countries.
Through participation in IDF conference, the PI observed that the biggest dairy goat operation (3000 or more milking goats) in York, England has proven to be very profitable (see the attached photos). The operation possesses its own large goat herd and biggest goat daiy processing plant in the U.K. French dairy goat farmers had established their cooperatives since 19th century, which gave a real impulse to make their goat products greatly profitable and highly competitive with cow dairy products. In France, the image of goat cheeses is very positive, and in spite of quite high consumer prices, around 10.90 euros/kg in supermarket, and 9.11 euros in hard discount stores, which are definitely very profitable for the sustainability of the dairy goat industry.
Although freezing cheeses has not been a common industrial practice, this method of preservation or food technological approach may be needed for the dairy goat industry to maintain its sustainability and profitability as one of the viable agricultural enterprises.
The outcomes of this project investigation clearly demonstrated the potential of utilizing this freezing technology to enhance the dairy goat industry for maintaining its more viable and competitive business against its cow counterpart as well as other foreign competitors of dairy goat products.
The previous belief was that goat milk cheeses cannot be frozen and stored without deterioration of its food qualities. Nevertheless, this funded project has proven that freezing and extended frozen storage of goat cheeses is definitely possible without much deleterious effects and it can be a good alternative method for extending storage and shelf life of goat cheese products, thereby this technology would be applicable for achieving the sustainable and profitable agricultural business for dairy goat farmers.
Dairy goat farmers in the U.S. may have to adopt this preserving method of cheeses for their sustainable businesses. If this frozen-storage method is not feasible for individual small dairy goat owners, it is recommended that the farmers are encouraged to establish their local cooperatives collectively to boost and strengthen their business for more profitable and competitive one, as has been done very successfully in other countries such as in France.
Areas needing additional study
Since the economic and financial analysis for this project in terms of development, frozen-storage and marketing of goat cheeses have not been conducted due to the difficulties in collection of actual business operation data from individual dairy goat farmers, it is strongly needed to collect some meaningful business operation and balance sheet data, and perform statistically valid economic and financial analysis on the profitability of the dairy goat operation especially in cheese production and frozen-storage for later marketing of the products. In order to achieve this pressing goal, the goat farmers have to show their candid volunteerism and true collaborative efforts in collection of the much needed business transaction records for financial analysis.
In addition to the natural problem of seasonal production of goat milk, goats have another important inherent drawback of naturally high somatic cell counts in their milk. This formidable condition scares off the dairy goat farmers especially the small dairy goat herd owners for testing their milks for sale or commercial processing and marketing. Moreover, many dairy goat farmers prefer to manufacture and consume raw goat milk cheeses for nutritional preferences and processing convenience, which are not permitted for public consumption by the PMO codes and regulatory agencies. This situation strongly encourages the need of many additional scientific investigations on raw goat milk cheeses manufacture and their quality evaluation, which are essentially required for the sake of public health as well as scientific validations.