My business is turning goat milk into cheese

Michael Karimi displays frozen cheese at Raka Milk Processors in Nyeri.  

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • At the Raka Milk Processing Plant located at the outskirts of Nyeri town in King’ong’o, the dairy manager is leveraging on the health benefits of goat milk to promote its consumption by making cheese.
  • Mr Karimi has contracted farmers to supply his firm with goat milk which he buys at Sh100 per litre. He adds that his price is relatively better compared to Sh40 per litre offered to cow milk farmers.
  • Cheese from his plant sells between Sh700 and Sh3, 000 per kilogram. To run the pasteuriser, he requires about 120 litres of milk for one round, but he receives about 40 litres a day.
  • His clientele is mainly based in Nanyuki and Nairobi while he also exports to Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania which he intends to resume with the ease of travelling bans into the country.

The stereotypes around goat milk make it a less-desirable dairy product for many people owing to its scent but for Michael Karimi, there are good prospects in value addition.

At the Raka Milk Processing Plant located at the outskirts of Nyeri town in King’ong’o, the dairy manager is leveraging on the health benefits of goat milk to promote its consumption by making cheese.

Compared to cow milk,  Mr Karimi says nutritionally, goat milk is highly recommended because it is rich in fats and minerals and contains less lactose and also a favourite for children especially those suffering of eczema.

He further stated that it has lower cholesterol, has plenty of calcium which is essential in bone development, is blood pressure friendly and is rich in vitamin B12 which is important for the functions of the nervous system.

“Value adding goat milk increases its shelf life and makes it more edible since its uptake is relatively low due to the stereotypes associated with it,” he says.

Mr Karimi has contracted farmers to supply his firm with goat milk which he buys at Sh100 per litre. He adds that his price is relatively better compared to Sh40 per litre offered to cow milk farmers.

Banking on his 18 years of experience in the cheese making industry in various plants, he is placing himself in the market to open up the untapped opportunity which prompted him to start the plant four years ago.

Process to make cheese

“Sales for goat cheese are limited but the market is gradually opening up,” he says.

But with the number of cheese processing plants coming up in the region and nationwide, Mr Karimi says the potential of goat cheese cannot be satiated as the demand is likely to shoot up.

Furthermore, fast food joints commonly making pizzas,  burgers and pasta blooming in the county is an opportunity to excel in the market.

Cheese can be consumed when cut into small pieces or mixed with fruits. The process to make cheese begins after receiving milk from the farmers where workers run a quality test that involves measuring density, scent-smelling the milk and an alcohol test.

Milk is then sieved and pumped into the coolers for a process that takes between six and nine hours depending on the cheese that is being made.

Workers process curd for cheese-making at the milk processor.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

After the milk is cooled to four degrees which is the recommended hygiene level. It is then moved for pasteurisation to about 72 and 74 degrees centigrade.

At Raka processing plant, he produces nine types of cheese that is, mozeralla, cheddar, Feta, Gourda, Halloumi, Pizza cheese, Goat feta, Chevre and Nyeri Blue which is a customised one to suit its origin.

Cheese from his plant sells between Sh700 and Sh3, 000 per kilogram. To run the pasteuriser, he requires about 120 litres of milk for one round, but he receives about 40 litres a day.

Contracted dairy cow farmers

The greatest challenge he has suffered since he began is farmers mixing goat milk with cow milk for the high prices it fetches and adulteration.

“People are yet to start appreciating goat milk hence a limited market access due to lack of acceptance by consumers,” he says urging people to form a habit around consumption of goat cheese.

And to augment the process at the firm, he has also contracted dairy cow farmers to supply him with milk for him to have a fully operation cheese processing factory.  With the 40 litres he receives, he manages to produce five kilograms of goat cheese while from 4, 500 litres of cow milk he produces 450 kilos of cheese.

“Time, temperature and moisture content are the greatest determinant in the making of good cheese,” says Mr Karimi.

His clientele is mainly based in Nanyuki and Nairobi while he also exports to Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania which he intends to resume with the ease of travelling bans into the country.

“The Rwandan market was great but it is shrinking as they are receiving cheap cheese from France,” he says.
He is also in the process of accrediting cheese laced with herbs such as chilli and value adding the whey to juices.

imugo@ke.nationmedia.com