Buffalo Milk Versus Cow Milk

The share of buffalo milk production to the world dairying by Asia is 96.79 per cent. India is the top and recognized player in buffalo milk production followed by Pakistan, China and Italy. It is proudly said that these buffaloes form the back bone of dairying in India and the term “milk” in India refers to that from either cow or buffalo or a combination of these two but the PFA act (1955) says that milk sold without any qualification shall be considered as buffalo milk.

As per the nutrient components, buffalo milk contains all the nutrients in higher proportions than cow milk. The compositional differences between buffalo and cow milk are reflected on their physico-chemical properties. Milk from buffalo is the preferred candidate for preparing milk and dairy products of western and traditional (indigenous) type and is nutritionally superior.

Almost all the products that are prepared from cow milk can be prepared from buffalo milk too with certain limitations owing to the differences in composition and physico-chemical properties but these differences have been fully exploited to the advantage of the producers, processors and consumers. It is no wonder that buffalo milk commands a premium price from collection centres linked to rural based farmers.

The inherent properties of buffalo milk like high total solids content, superior whiteness and viscosity render it eminently suitable for the manufacture of traditional (indigenous) milk products like khoa, dahi, paneer, kheer, payasam, malai, kulfi and ghee. Cow milk on the other hand yields a soft coagulum making it suitable for preparing channa and other channa based products like sandesh, rasagolla, chumchum and rasamalai.

The buffalo milk contains more fat, solids not fat and total solids and hence yield of products prepared from buffalo milk, be it cream, butter, cheese or condensed milk will be always higher. The higher fat content in buffalo milk helps in increasing the quantity of milk supplied to the cities by toning (toned milk is milk in which the fat content has been reduced to 3% by adding skim milk or reconstituted skim milk while maintaining the original SNF level at 8.5%).

Higher total solids in buffalo milk also provide for more calories than cow milk (100 calories are derived from 100 g of buffalo milk while 70 calories from 100 g of cow milk). Higher proportion of beta casein in buffalo milk makes it easier to prepare humanized milk. Large sized fat globules and higher proportion of solid fat in buffalo milk facilitates cream separation and churning of butter. The percentage of fat harvested from buffalo milk is significantly higher when compared to cow milk.

Composition of cow and buffalo milk at a glance

Constituent Cow milk Buffalo milk
In percentage
Water 86.50 83.18
Fat 4.39 6.71
Protein 3.30 4.52
Lactose 4.44 4.45
Total solids 13.50 16.82
Solids Not Fat 9.11 10.11
Ash 0.73 0.80
Calcium 0.12 0.18
Magnesium 0.01 0.02
Sodium 0.05 0.04
Potassium 0.15 0.11
Phosphorous 0.10 0.10
Citrate 0.18 0.18
Chloride 0.10 0.07
Ca : P Ratio 1.20 1.80

The emulsifying capacity of buffalo milk fat is better due to a higher proportion (50%) of butyric acid containing triglycerides compared to only 37% in cow milk. This is the reason for higher yield of butter and ghee prepared from buffalo milk. The higher proportion (9-12%) of high melting triglycerides gives a bigger grain size (fat) which in turn imparts a grainy texture to ghee obtained from buffalo milk. Apart from this, buffalo milk ghee is less prone to hydrological rancidity than cow milk ghee.

Buffalo milk contains less cholesterol (total cholesterol 275 mg and free cholesterol 212mg per 100 g of fat) compared to cow milk (total cholesterol 330 mg and free cholesterol 280mg per 100 g of fat) and more tocopherol (334.21 µg per kg for buffalo and 312.3µg per kg of cow milk). Due to high peroxidase activity, buffalo milk can be preserved naturally for a longer period. Buffalo milk contains more calcium, a better calcium : phosphorous ratio and less sodium and potassium than in cow milk which makes it a better nutritional supplement for infants.

More facts about buffalo milk and buffalo milk cheese