Cow Milk vs Buffalo Milk: Differences, Quality, & Identification Tips

Milk is one of the byproducts of livestock animals; cow and buffalo produce milk after parturition, that is, the act of giving birth in farm animals. Milk production by cow and buffalo lasts till the weaning period; this period varies between 7 months – 9 months.

Generally, cow milk and buffalo are highly nutritious. They are rich in essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy growth. Cow milk is common because cows are readily domesticated, unlike buffalo that are not readily domesticated in several locations.

There are clear differences, in terms of nutritional composition and appearance, between cow milk and buffalo milk. These and more on milk from cow and buffalo, you will get to know at the end of this article. This guide will assist you to identify cow milk or buffalo milk at first glance as several features on this subject would be discussed holistically.

Difference Between Cow Milk And Buffalo Milk

  1. Buffalo’s milk contains more protein compared to cow’s milk, which can make it more difficult to digest. It comes with a protein content that is in the range of 4.2%-4.5% and is 11% higher than that of cow milk.
  2. Buffalo milk can be preserved naturally for a longer period due to a high peroxidase activity – enzyme – while cow milk should ideally be consumed within 1-2 days.
  3. Because buffalo’s milk comes with more proteins and fat, it has more calories. For every 100ml of buffalo milk, you consume about 100Kcals. On the other hand, cow’s milk contains about 70 Kcals.
  4. Cow milk consists of a lower fat content than buffalo milk; hence it is lighter and easily digestible. In fact, buffalo milk is nearly twice as rich in fat as compared to cow milk and the most important fraction responsible for its highly energetic and nutritive value.
  5. Buffalo milk is creamier and thicker than cow milk. Therefore, it is used to make heavy foods like curd, paneer, kheer, kulfi, and ghee. While cow milk is used to make chenna for desserts like rasgulla, Sandesh, and ras malai.
  6. Buffalo milk has more protein content in comparison to cow milk, which is why it takes longer to digest.
  7. Buffalo milk can also be preserved for a longer period than cow milk due to the high peroxidase activity in it. Peroxidase is a family of enzymes that act as a catalyst for reactions. Also, buffalo milk is considered to have more calcium, better calcium to phosphorous ratio, and less sodium and potassium than cow’s milk.
  8. Buffalo milk has more calories than cow milk because of a higher protein and fat content.
  9. Buffalo milk contains more calcium and other minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium as compared to cow milk which is rich in vitamins.
  10. Cow milk tends to have a higher water content as compared to buffalo milk. This is because it contains fewer solids with around 90 percent of the milk being composed of water.

Even though both may be different from each other, one cannot deny the fact that both are healthy and safe to drink. It depends on a person’s digestibility and tolerance towards a certain type of milk. So, choosing the type you think suits your body best is important.

Cow Milk vs Buffalo Milk: Milk Quality and Composition

#1. Buffalo Milk

Buffaloes are mammals which means that their mammary glands produce milk to feed their offspring. In some countries, they are milked for commercial purposes. Buffalo milk has higher levels of fat, lactose, protein, ash and Ca, and vitamins A and C and lower levels of vitamin E riboflavin and cholesterol; an absence of carotene; and the presence of the blue-green pigment (biliverdin) as well as a bioactive pentasaccharide and gangliosides not present in cow milk (CM).

Though there are many varieties of buffaloes, the water buffalo contributes the most to the world’s milk production. There are two types of Water buffaloes; river and swamp types. The river buffalo accounts for the majority of the milk production, while the swamp buffalo is mainly used as a draught animal. India and Pakistan produce about 80% of all buffalo milk worldwide, followed by China, Egypt, and Nepal, where more dairy buffaloes compared to cows, can be found.

Also, buffalo milk has a higher fat, protein, lactose, vitamin, and mineral content than cow’s milk. It’s also whiter and has a thicker consistency, which makes it perfect for the production of fat-based dairy products. You also find buffaloes in the Mediterranean, specifically in Italy, where their milk is mainly used for cheese production. Buffalo milk is rich in high protein and fat content, which gives it a rich and creamy texture perfect for producing butter, cream, and yogurt. It is usually richer in calcium and protein than cow’s milk and has less cholesterol and sodium. Buffalo milk is great for healthy bones, dental health, and cardiovascular health. It is also a good source of minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Composition of Buffalo Milk

According to the definition of USDA (2011), water buffalo milk is the normal lacteal secretion practically free of colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy water buffalo. Water buffalo milk shall be produced according to the sanitary standards of this ordinance.

Quite a number of studies focused on cow milk, even if the milk produced by other animals such as buffaloes are essential in the human diet in different parts of the world. Buffalo milk is a totally natural product that can be consumed like any other milk. It is one of the richest products from a compositionalpoint of view and is characterized by higher fat, total solids, proteins, caseins, lactose, and ash contents than cow, goat, camel, and human milk.

Also, monitoring changes in the composition of buffalo milk over years is important as an overall index for the combined effects of environmental and genetic factors.

Differences in the composition of buffalo milk in different localities reflect differences in breeds, management, feeding, and environmental conditions. The high milk solids of buffalo milk not only make it ideal for processing into superb dairy products but also contribute to significant energy savings in conducting that process.

Buffalo milk yogurts and cheeses are natural thick set without recourse to adding additional milk proteins or gelling agents as with lesser milk. Dairies love to work with buffalo milk, which we all know makes the best mozzarella. The smooth texture and richness convert into a truly wonderful range of multiple award-winning products.

In addition, the protein content of buffalo milk is higher than in cows (Ragab et al., 1958; Ganguli, 1973, Ahmad et al., 2008). Of the total proteins of buffalo milk, 80% are caseins and 20% is whey proteins with traces of minor proteins (Laxminarayana and Dastur, 1968; Sirry et al., 1984; Sahai, 1996).

The casein of buffalo milk is present in the micellar form. Buffalo milk contains a negligible proportion of soluble casein (0.03 g.100mL-1) about 1 % of the total casein unlike cow milk (0.11 g.100mL-1) about 5 % of the total casein (Sabarwal and Ganguli, 1971).

#2. Cow Milk

Cow milk is packed with nutrients like protein, minerals, calcium, carbohydrates, vitamins, and fat. All of these are extremely vital for the development and growth of our bodies.  Cow milk contains calcium and a decent amount of Vitamin D, together the combination promotes strong and healthy bones. Regular milk staves off risks of osteopenia, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.  

Cow milk is the best companion for anyone looking to lose weight. Its calcium and vitamin D content also helps the body burn calories by increasing the metabolism of fat.

 Cow milk is rich in calcium that may help reduce the risk of hypertension by keeping blood vessels elastic. Cow milk also has a rich quantity of healthy fats that helps keep blood pressure in check.

How To Identify Buffalo Milk And Cow Milk

  1. Cow milk contains a lower amount of fat as compared to buffalo milk. This is why buffalo milk is thicker than cow milk. Cow milk has 3-4 percent of fat, while buffalo milk has about 7-8 percent.
  2. The fat in cow milk does not give one the mouthfeel of fat Vs buffalo milk.
  3. Buffalo milk is heavy, so it takes time to digest and keeps you fuller for a longer period.
  4. When a drop of cow milk is put on a polished vertical surface, it stops or flows slowly, leaving a white trail behind, it is pure cow milk. Milk mixed with water or other agents will flow down immediately without a trace.
  5. Cow milk has a slightly salty taste compared to buffalo milk.

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