Questions About Our Yogurt

Why is sheep milk yogurt good for me? What is the difference between sheep, goat and cows milk?

Our sheep milk is perfect just as it is. For our yogurt, we use only natural, whole milk with its abundance of nutrients intact. There is no need to add powdered milk and stabilizers or drain extra whey to make the yogurt thicker. Our recipe is simple: Happy, healthy sheep plus meticulous production methods and selection of active cultures creates the most naturally healthful, lusciously thick, and delicious whole milk yogurt for you.

Humans have been milking sheep and enjoying the unique benefits of their milk for thousands of years! The countries of the Mediterranean remain the world’s biggest producers—the extraordinarily long lives of Bulgarian shepherds is often attributed in part to the health-giving benefits of sheep milk. Sheep’s milk is extremely high in nutrients compared to other kinds of commercially available milk. In many cases, it is more readily digestible to people who suffer from lactose intolerance. Gram for gram, the superiority of sheep milk lies in the comparison with cow and goat milk – especially in the differences between levels of critical nutritional substances like protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamins B6, B12, and D, the medium-chain amino acids, linoleic acids and all 10 of the essential amino acids.

Sheep milk contains about one-third more energy than cow or goat milk. It has double the protein and much more of the right kinds of fats, vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc while being lower in sodium. It has more than twice as much Vitamin C, and double or triple the other essential vitamins. Importantly, it also has more folic acid (folate).

Sheep’s milk contains about twice the fat of cow’s milk, but this also means twice the ‘healthy’ fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, including Omega 3 & 6). The same goes for Goat’s milk. The body needs healthy fats for many bodily functions, like absorbing vitamins. Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids belong to this group.

Sheep milk is also rich in medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCTs) – about 25% of the fat content. MCTs can benefit weight control by promoting ‘fullness’, reducing fat deposits, increasing energy expenditure, and being more easily metabolized (turned into energy in the body).

The fat globules in sheep milk are smaller than those in either cow or goat milk so the milk is more homogeneous. The smaller fat globules are often more easily digested and less likely to cause high cholesterol.

In a nutshell:

Ounce for Ounce Whole Sheep Milk is Superior! (Compared to cow and goat milk)

Sheep milk has 60% more protein
Sheep milk protein is complete because it has all 10 essential amino acids the body needs.
Sheep milk does not contain A1 protein

Sheep milk has more of the good fats!
Mono- and poly-unsaturated, including Omega 3 & 6

Sheep milk is higher in natural vitamins and minerals.
A, B, B1, B6, B12, C, E, and calcium (also more magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc, which may help combat allergies and eczema)

Sheep milk is easier to digest.
Higher in medium- & short-chain fatty acids
The fat globules are smaller and easier to digest

Does sheep milk taste like goat milk?

We get this question all the time because the two animals are very similar in size. However, the two kinds of milk taste nothing alike. Sheep milk is noted for its incredibly clean flavor – with no funny aftertaste. In fact, most people even prefer it to cow milk.

Is sheep milk yogurt more digestible?

In Bellwether Farms’ research, we found that over 50% of our customers, when surveyed, reported that they chose our yogurt specifically because of digestibility and other health concerns, such as allergies.  While sheep milk does contain lactose, people consistently report that they are able to eat sheep milk without discomfort.

Sheep milk also has no A1 protein which is fairly common in cow milk and for some people presents symptoms similar to lactose intolerance.

Of course, the thing that really stands out about Bellwether Farms yogurt is how great it tastes.

Can cow milk yogurt be made to be more digestible? What’s the deal with A2 protein?

The answer is ‘Yes.’ Not all breeds of cows produce the same kind of milk. Bellwether Farms uses milk from Jersey cows that we source from neighboring farms here in Sonoma County, California. Jersey cow milk contains naturally contains more A2 beta-casein protein, not the A1 protein that many find difficult to digest. The cows producing the organic milk used in our yogurts have been DNA tested to confirm they produce only A2 protein. In addition to being more digestible, Jersey cow milk also has a richer, creamier taste and texture.

Why is there liquid sometime on the top of my yogurt?

The liquid that is sometime found on the top of your yogurt is whey. It is normal for a bit of whey to separate from the yogurt once it has been packaged. Whey contains many important vitamins and nutrients and can be mixed back into the yogurt.

Why is there sugar in your yogurt and where does it come from?

We do not add any sugar to our plain yogurts. The sugar in the plain yogurt is lactose (the natural sugar found in milk). The sugar found in our fruit flavors is about 3/4 naturally occurring due to the lactose and the fruit. The sugar in our vanilla is about 50% from the lactose. All added sugar in our yogurts is cane sugar.

Questions About Our Cheese

Is your rennet vegetarian?

Our cheeses are made with traditional rennet which is not vegetarian. We made a decision to use natural rennet because we feel it produces better flavors for aging cheeses. Our fresh sheep cheese is the exception and we use a vegetarian rennet for all of those.

Can I freeze your cheese?

Only our fresh sheep cheese logs freeze well. Our other products do not freeze well. If you cannot eat it all – take it to work, school or share it to your neighbor.

How should I store cheese?

Cheese should be kept at temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees F. New wrapping should be used each time a cheese is rewrapped. Cheese should be stored in an airtight container to avoid picking up aromas from other foods. Ideally, wrap the cheese with waxed paper and then place in an airtight plastic container. In a pinch, any airtight plastic bag or container will do. Chilled cheeses should be allowed time to warm before serving. Half an hour to an hour should be sufficient. Mold on a cheese does not mean that it is spoiled. Just make a shallow cut from each moldy surface of the cheese so that no mold is visible.

Questions About Our Sheep and Farm

What breed of sheep produces your milk?

In the US dairy sheep have all been brought from Europe with the most common breeds being the East Friesian (from the Netherlands), Lacaune (from France), and the Assaf (from Spain). Dairy sheep typically have twins or triplets so lambing time (typically in the Winter) can be a very busy time of year!

How much milk does a dairy sheep produce?

On average about 1/2 gallon per day (milking twice a day) from each ewe. This amount is less than a goat and much less than a cow — some breeds can average over 12 gallons a day! This is the main reason sheep milk products are among the most expensive.

Do you shear dairy sheep and what is done with the wool?

Typically dairy sheep are shorn twice a year – usually about a month before they lamb and then another time when it is convenient later in the year. A dairy sheep can produce over 10lb of wool each year and it is heavy, particularly if it gets wet. Due to this weight dairy sheep are never allowed to grow 12 months of wool, meaning it is not long enough for premium wool sales. Wool of this type is usually sold to cooperatives that market it for carpeting and other industrial purposes.

What do dairy sheep eat? Is the feed organic and non-GMO?

Dairy sheep need a nutritious diet in order to produce milk and maintain their health and bodyweight. The majority of the ewes’ diet is alfalfa with a small amount of corn or other grains for energy. We are actively working on sourcing as much organic and non-GMO feed as is economically possible. However, currently, we cannot guarantee that our ewes feed is always GMO-free.

About Us

Family Creamery Bellwether Farms Shows Just How Much “Whole is Better”

Traditionally crafted, high-quality, delicious sheep’s milk and cow’s milk yogurts and cheeses stand out nationwide

Petaluma, Calif. – Nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of the Sonoma County coast, Bellwether Farms lovingly crafts dairy products including yogurts and cheeses using full-fat sheep’s milk and cow’s milk and traditional, artisanal techniques. Whether you’re savoring a midday snack, recovering post-workout, or preparing a favorite recipe, Bellwether Farms’ versatile award-winning dairy essentials are delicious and packed with nutrition.

Founded in 1986 and family-owned and operated, Bellwether Farms first received rave reviews for its sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt from farmers’ markets and chefs in the San Francisco Bay area. Since sheep’s milk is extremely high in nutrients and in many cases more readily digestible to those with lactose intolerance, Bellwether Farms was able to carve a niche for the brand and make sheep’s milk cheeses and yogurts more mainstream and accessible. Coming up on its 35th anniversary, Bellwether Farms now makes America’s number one sheep’s milk yogurt, has loyal customers across the country and has secured distribution nationwide. But what still sets Bellwether Farms apart in the dairy case after all these years is a refreshingly simple approach that’s been a commitment for the creamery since its inception.

Bellwether Farms’ devotion to simplicity and wholesome tradition is no more apparent than in its Sheep Milk Yogurt and Organic Cow Milk Yogurt. Most yogurt these days is created by first cobbling together a variety of low-fat milk and cream sources — and then adding colors, fillers, flavors and sugars to make up the difference lost in taste and texture. In contrast, Bellwether Farms makes yogurt in small batches from whole milk straight from healthy, happy sheep or cows. Thanks to this premium sourcing and also to using time-honored techniques perfected over thousands of years, the resulting yogurt is lusciously smooth, delicious, and nutrient-dense.

The motto “whole is better” applies not only to Bellwether Farms’ popular yogurt line but to all of its products including its exquisite, hand-dipped Whole Milk Basket Ricotta, made from pure Jersey cow milk. Cultured first and then slowly heated in small kettles until curds form, there’s nothing else quite like it. Another standout is Bellwether Farms’ Crème Fraiche, French cultured cream made from pure, local heavy cream. It’s a favorite staple of professional chefs and home cooks alike and is widely renowned for its complex richness.

“With ‘whole is better,’ everyone wins,” says Liam Callahan, owner of Bellwether Farms. “The sheep and cows live full, healthy lives; farmers are rewarded for taking care of these healthy animals; we get to follow our passion and craft exceptional products we’re proud of — and folks enjoy food that is deeply nutritious and remarkably flavorful.”

And this holistic emphasis extends beyond farming and food production to giving back to the community. In 2016, Bellwether Farms established the nonprofit Bellwether Farms Foundation, pledging one percent of sales to organizations providing hunger relief or food-related education. In 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Bellwether Farms launched Project Spilled Milk and raised $50,000 to purchase excess milk from dairy farmers who had fewer open restaurants or schools to buy their dairy. Bellwether Farms dedicated one production shift each week to create yogurt from this milk and delivered 25,000 16 oz containers of yogurt to food banks in Northern California, which have been experiencing unprecedented demand this year.