Five Reasons Why Manufacturing Human Breast Milk Cheese Is Disgusting

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Samples of human cheese were offered last night at Feast in Greenpoint.


Human cheese is one of those topics you wish would just go away. It first reared its ugly head last year when a blogger-chef from a certain Chelsea bistro suggested he'd milked his wife to make cheese for a private party.

I've talked both to cheese experts and lactating mothers, and come to the conclusion that the quantity of breast milk needed to make anything like a commercial quantity of cheese is prohibitive, since a mother rarely produces more than a pint per day, which would boil down to less than four ounces of cheese. Further, fresh human ricotta with no preservatives, even when refrigerated, would go bad in a couple of days.

So here's the situation: You'd have to milk the mother every day to produce small quantities of cheese, presumably taking the milk away from the baby -- mothers rarely have huge quantities left over after feeding a hungry infant. Yes, a mother can continue lactating after the baby is weened, but what mom in her right mind wants to do that regularly -- with the attendant pain, chapping, and leakage -- to produce breast-milk cheese as a kind of culinary stunt?

Last week, Fork in the Road published a report on a company in London that was making human ice cream. Rather than hiding under the cloak of adventuresome culinary experimentation, this crass operation -- still in its earliest stages -- intends to milk the poor, who respond to an ad for hard cash. They have to be tested medically first, just as a cow is inspected and tested before it can give milk in a dairy, to demonstrate that it has no diseases that might be transmitted through the milk.

And, what's more, the ice cream so produced is hideously expensive, costing something like $20 for a serving. Despite the picture -- which shows a martini glass heaped with some white substance -- the servings were minuscule, since the first batch made with 30 fluid ounces of milk was said to produce 50 servings. Even without precise calculations and recipes, the servings must have been less than one ounce apiece -- just a dab in the bottom of the glass. Thirteen more women had already been recruited for the restaurant's herd. Clearly, this is ice cream for thrill seekers and misogynist pervs.



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31 comments
kelaltieri
kelaltieri

WOW, some of you vegan, PETA loving hipsters are so fucking irrational, that it's laughable.  Some of the points you make are so ridiculous.  Giraffe's milk?  Calves punching foodies?  Really?  I bet when human's milk cheese and ice cream become commercially available, you'll be first in line to buy it at your local grocery store, right?  Get over yourselves.  *rolls eyes*

MissCai
MissCai

You have a right to have your personal opinion about this, but it seems like you aren't really being respectful or sensitive about other people's opinions on the matter, and you are making a lot of assumptions about why women would or would not do this. How does it make more sense to eat cheese made from another species instead of our own species? You are right that human milk isn't necessarily meant for adult humans, but by that logic, cow or goat or sheep's milk DEFINITELY is not meant for adult humans, or children. Cows milk is meant for cows, sheep's milk is meant for sheep, and goat milk is meant for goats. The dairy industry as a whole, is an abusive, environmentally destructive industry which steals baby food from other animals so adult humans can consume it. How is THAT not weird and disgusting?

They keep the mother cows continuously pregnant, rip their babies away from them and slaughter them for veal, so we can have the milk instead of the baby cow, which the milk was actually intended for. Then the cows are hooked up to the milking devices for hours at a time and over milk them, causing sores that leak pus into the milk, and stressing the animal out even worse than it already has been, which releases stress hormones into the milk, in addition to the excess of reproductive hormones from the cows being constantly pregnant all the time, and the other hormones and weird medications and weird food that they are given. Even free range grass fed cows are kept constantly pregnant and produce an overload of hormones in their milk. Besides which, humans have not evolved to drink the milk of other species. It was only a genetic mutation that let certain cultures digest the sugars in cow milk, but none of us can properly digest bovine casein, the protein in cows milk. It actually depletes our bodies of calcium during the process of trying to break down a protein which we are not meant to be eating and cultures where the milk of other animals is not consumed, have lower incidences of osteoporosis and bone breakages later in life because they are not depleting their calcium stores by trying to digest the milk of other species. 

So, even if it is a little strange for adult humans to be consuming milk, i.e. baby food, from an objective, biological and evolutionary perspective, it makes way more sense to be eating human milk than the milk of other animals. And it absolutely is not cannibalistic. We are designed to consume human milk, and many other cultures women breastfeed their husbands and their other family members or at least express milk for them and it is not considered strange. It is societal conditioning that makes Western cultures uncomfortable with the idea, because we have been raised to believe that animal rights are not important, and that breeding animals in order to steal their milk and force our bodies to try to digest it, is completely normal and acceptable, and that breast milk is "gross", when it what we are all intended to eat for at least the first several years of our lives, if not into adulthood. 

As for the consumption of human milk by adults "stealing" baby food from infants, that is absolutely a false assumption on your part. Breastfeeding mothers who donate to milk banks or sell milk to be made into food or who make their own breast milk food, are doing so because they have an excess of milk. They are not starving their own infants in order to sell their milk out of desperation for money. Many women produce more milk than their baby needs, and it is very uncomfortable and often even painful to have excess milk in their breasts, so they express the milk and then have to figure out what to do with it. There is a chef in New York who started making cheese out of his wife's breast milk, because even after shipping their excess milk to a milk bank, they had too much of it. Women can produce an extraordinary amount of milk, and the more their baby eats or the more they express, the more their body produces in response. And if they want to sell it and have some extra money for diapers, or to treat themselves once in a while, or even if it is to pay bills, how is that disgusting? It is their body and their decision about what to do with it. 

As for the ridiculous claim that breast milk might be harmful to adult humans, that is absolutely unfounded as well. It is true that illness can be spread through milk, that is why breast milk banks screen women regularly while they are donating, and the same can absolutely be done when the milk is used for any other purpose. Breast milk is extremely nutritious, and has a host of antibodies and immune enhancing substances which are so beneficial to all humans, babies and adults alike, that leukemia and HIV patients, and other patients with suppressed immune systems, are often prescribed or encouraged to drink breast milk, with astonishing results. Read some blogs online about women who either breastfeed their husbands or express milk for them to drink. The health benefits are amazing. Not only can adult humans survive solely off of breast milk, they actually THRIVE from it. It is one of the most nutritious foods out there. 

So, next time you decide to post something, please try to be more respectful of the opinions and lifestyles of others, and maybe do some research beforehand too. And no, I am not a mom who is just being defensive of my own lifestyle. I have never produced milk or tried human milk as an adult, but I know people who do and have, and I would try my friends breast milk if they decided to make cheese or anything else with it. And if I ever have my own family, I will be feeding them healthy, nutritious, natural, sustainable breast milk and breast milk foods, including my husband, as well as donating to milk banks, and maybe I will even look into making cheese for a local restaurant. I'll  be sure to send you some to try, maybe you will have relaxed about it by then! 

little_miss_nurse
little_miss_nurse

Awesome, to everyone realizing all the errors in this article. First off with Rennet, u also add yogurt to create live cultures keeping.g the cheese from spoiling. 2 actually I know plenty of women that produce more than a pint (16 oz) of milk per day 3. Not everyone leaks or is chapped or cracked like u say, I rarely leaked and never had any pain or chapping. When humans first came about we forages for fruits vegetable nuts and meat, the only "dairy" we had was breast milk u idiot! Humans were NEVER meant to consume animal milk! Biblically defined....it's basically bestiality! U drink cow milk, so I guess u would be fine with dog milk? Or giraffe milk? Same concept! Human breast milk is meant for humans and as long as u nurse or pump there's no reason not to use it. I'd rather drink my own breast milk the. Hormone and steroid injected cows milk! There are no adverse effect or horrible hormones that are nof found both adult men and women! If it's safe for baby why wouldn't it be safe for an adult? They say to start ur kid lb cow milk at age 1 but the who recommends Brest feeding for at least TWO years! I haven't seen anyone genetically mutated since eating breast milk I've cream in london! Btw ANIMAL IS DISGUSTING AND NOT ALLOWED IN OUR HOME! We strictly use soy or almond milk. Get over urself ur own taboos and ur own fears of a pair of boobs and what then can do!

KerryVera
KerryVera

A veal calf cannot punch a foodie in the face either, because he is chained and tethered in a tiny crate in which he cannot turn around, nor sit and lie down. His mother's milk was designed for him, but he was taken from her at birth while they both cried, missing the connection they so desperately sought. You say it is "disgusting" to ingest a human mother's milk, yet humans are the only species who ingest the milk of another mammal. Stealing from a baby calf ? That's pretty disgusting to me.

Jbogle317
Jbogle317

My son is allergic to bovine milk. Mommy's milk is OK. Mac and cheese is a staple. If I can make a staple food for my son out of his mothers milk, I will do it. People who eat it for...pleasure? ....well, my wife is healthy, disease and drug free and will be producing for at least another three years so...

BFingMama
BFingMama

I ran across this unfortunate article when looking for a recipe to convert my excess breast milk into cheese before it expired.   I'm on medications that don't allow me to donate, so I need to do something with it before it goes bad in the freezer.  Anyway, I have to take issue with this.  Your number one reason isn't instinct, it's conditioning:  We've been conditioned to think of human milk as gross and that cow's milk is perfectly safe.  I'm not a cow.  I don't need to eat or drink cow's milk.  I'm a human.  If the milk had been tested and was disease free, I doubt it would be terrible.  You said it tasted just like cow's cheese yourself.  Your second reason is just silly. If human milk was sold in stores, there wouldn't be a need for donated milk.  A lot of women are blessed with an abundance of milk.  Some donate it, some freeze it, and some even wet-nurse!  I see nothing wrong with donating a portion of a freezer stash and then selling the rest to a processing plant for cheese or drinking milk.  As for your third reason, the hormones laden in cow's milk has already been linked to early sexual maturity in children.  The nutrients in cow's milk is formulated by Mother Nature for cows... not humans.  Reason number 4 is probably the "scientific equipment" that woman was trying to purchase:  equipment to pasteurize milk and test it for diseases.  Milk donated to milk banks also undergo this kind of testing.   Your last reason is the most condescending.  I'm a nursing mother.  I would, theoretically, consent to be a milk-maker as a job.  My child would benefit from my milk and so would other people. No sane mother would ever sell her milk and feed her baby formula.  Besides, if human milk was sold in stores, there'd be no need for formula. 

Anonymous
Anonymous

This article is totally opinion and in no way researched. First of all Hepatitis C is not transferred in breast milk, to passes from blood to blood contact only. Second I find it very offensive that the author believes that drinking milk from a cow, which has four compartments in it stomach to aid in digesting the undigestible (cellulose comes to mind), is perfectly ok for humans, while milk that has undergone evolution for tens of thousands to be perfectly adapted for human nourishment might somehow be detrimental. Are we genetically more similar to a baby human or a baby cow?

Evangeline Claire
Evangeline Claire

Exploitation of poor mothers my behind.. people choose to continue to lactate after their babies are older all the time, in ANRs (adult nursing relationships) etc... I don't see what's wrong with giving breast milk to people if you choose, when we do so many other things for people.. we use our bodies to work, and some jobs involve pleasure (massages, etc, entertainment). Gahhh... stupid stupid stupid. And it put me in a bad mood, being randomly reminded of super feminist stuff. (poor girls, poor girls, even when they choose to do something.) Now that I think of it, that may have played a part in this article here... if men were volunteering to lactate (men lactating as well as inducing lactation is possible and done), would he put "poor men"? I sure hope so. I hate that gender shit.

Only thing I really agree w/ is the possibility of a hoax and how many people can give much out..

Evangeline Claire
Evangeline Claire

Hmm.. the whole expensive thing would have me pass on having it often... but there are ways to avoid pain in milking... I actually read a lot of people who feel so awful after feeding their *baby* aren't latching on right. 

About the taste, it could be a combination of things added to it, and just what the human(s) tasted like after being made into cheese... on another article about this, there was cheese from 3 females and they all tasted different. Although I assume anyone knowing about breast milk and has a brain would already consider this so maybe it just tastes very far away from breast milk to him.It does sound like it could be a hoax though... I can give him that. If there wasn't enough testing I don't know why this person ate it.

And farm animals are farmed for us, I don't see much difference between choosing to be milked for cheese, and the mothers that milk for free for donations to mothers who don't want to breast feed or can't. I think the last reason is really stupid. IMO, there's nothing wrong with choosing to give out your breast milk (just like other fluids..) to make things. It isn't an insult to you or anything just because we also use animals to do it. "Omg, we milk animals, it's like treating humans like animals! bla bla!".. well actually we are animals anyways. The milking thing is an animal part of us. Like cows, we give milk to young.. we just started taking baby cow milk for us adults first. I went "omg, shut up" when I read that one. The reason about people thinking it's gross and "human instinct" is silly too. Apparently not everyone thinks it's disgusting, so if they choose to eat it, whatEVER? Some of the stuff in the article just seems immature to me. Human breast milk shouldn't be disgusting while you will drink from a cow's utter.... a lot of people are actually lactose intolerant, and some have problems with casein. There are adults in adult nursing relationships and from what I read breastmilk is fine nutrients wise for humans... either way, really, you will drink something that a lot of humans even have issues eating, people will eat all kinds of other junk passed off as food, but you're complaining about human breast milk?

I know there are some people who know that it does not make sense to be turned off by human breast milk, but are just unsettled by the idea anyway. (shrug.)

Taylor Bishop
Taylor Bishop

Human milk is natural, its something we are all given in our first stage of life. Its so nutritious and so good for everyone. The only people who think its disgusting are people who are too uptight to see that its not sexual. 80 percent of our population cannot have cows milk because our bodies are not made to drink cows mil, however, we never lose the ability to digest human milk. If you ask me, I think its disgusting that we drink cow milk.

Stealsyourtoast
Stealsyourtoast

I'm honestly not very offended by the idea of using human breast milk to produce cheese or ice cream or any other byproduct for that matter, if women are willing to donate the milk, chefs are willing to make it, and people are willing to purchase and ingest it then I could care less. And if women are in a position where they need to sell their own breast milk to make money then I hardly think they should be reprimanded for it and compared to cattle, it's not as if these restaurants are forcing women to donate milk against their will. For that matter this isn't really a new concept, in the middle ages it was common practice for noble women to have nurse maids breast feed their children. Or is it the idea of adults ingesting breast milk products that is so offensive? Either way I can't bring myself to get upset over it and don't find it all that very exploitative.

MJ
MJ

You are not doing new mothers who are considering breast-feeding any favors by spreading misinformation. Specifically, you say "what mom in her right mind wants to do that regularly -- with the attendant pain, chapping, and leakage . . ." Having breast-fed two babies and known hundreds of other women who breast fed, virtually all will agree that these symptoms occur only during the first month or two of nursing. By the time a baby is ready to be weaned, there is no more pain and chapping, and leakage is easily controlled. Give Mother Nature some credit!

I still think this use of breast milk is ludicrous, though, so at least we agree on something!

M. Hobbs, age 64

To teat or not to teat ...
To teat or not to teat ...

Just to add to this story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-e...

This is about the London ice-cream parlour that has started commercializing breast-milk ice-cream.

BTW, heating is not pasteurization, pasteurization involves "heating" to a certain temperature for a certain period of time depending on the substance to be pasteurized. So something that has been heated cannot be said to be pasteurized (I make jam and do home-canning).

Last comment, Smitty, you can make lightshades out of human skin, I think the objection here is to crass commercialization with a pseudo do-gooder approach, how about a Man's White Russian cocktail, all the usual ingredients plus some of my sperm, $25 bucks a shot!

The point I'm trying to make is, in the privacy of your own home etc. WTF, but this is just pure sensationalism.

alikah
alikah

I'm not much of a milk-products consumer myself, as it tends to give me sinus problems (at least milk from animals - I've never tried human milk, but as I'm currently pregnant I'm sure it will happen soon). However, I think it's silly for people to be so against this stuff. Have you ever been to a farm? Do you think your milk products come from a sterile environment? They don't: a cow's udders are right next to where her waste comes out. The lucky ones live outdoors and are exposed to nature and all that comes with that: mud, dirt, insects, feces, etc. Most cows live in filthy conditions and the smell alone is enough to make one sick. That cow is treated with hormones and lots of other nice chemicals to make her milk usable for us humans (although I agree the milk should always be tested). We are the only animal species (yes, we are animals) who consumes milk when we are adults and regularly use milk from other animals... this is not natural, it is a development we have created.

Mr. Sietsema, it sounds like you know very little about breastfeeding and women's bodies in general... you mention "pain, chapping and leakage" but it isn't that way for everyone. Leakage might be a factor but we women know how to deal with such things - in case you don't know, we leak when we have our periods each month. Also, a woman can continue to produce milk for a very long time. In some cultures women breastfeed children beyond their toddler years (although I personally don't plan on doing this). You are also just assuming that women who would contribute must automatically be strapped for cash. Even if she is, let her decide what she wants to do - winos donate blood all the time for cash and I don't see anyone worrying if they're being exploited!

Get over your fear of the human body. Most people (myself included, I admit) ingest so much garbage on a daily basis, and they have no idea where most of it comes from.

To teat or not to teat ...
To teat or not to teat ...

Beuurrk! I've tried breast milk fresh from the source (leftovers) and it was yummy. I think the word "ambrosia" came to mind. This is pretty complicated, I used to be vegan and understand the whole "stealing milk from calves, we don't digest the lactic acid, makes you blind etc." stuff. Then again, in India "Holy Cow" and the sacred cow nourishes human life from its gushing teats and so on...Hmmm, must agree that I read about the trendy new ice-cream the other day and thought "ice-cream for mugs" at £15-20 a bowl, by the way, I think that anything molecular should remain in a science lab, I WANT TO EAT FOOD GROWN IN THE GROUND thanks very much.Finally, the artist's slightly delirious "project" seems to involve: plastic surgery to enhance volume/capacity of the said mammary supply tubes and biotechnology that will convert "something" into MORE milk, how about tears, women are so emotional aren't they, just find the way to convert salty tears into sexy milk and we're laughing all the way to the bank (unless it went bust because it invested in too many crap biotechnology projects).Thanks and give me (real) ricotta anyday!

jacqueline66
jacqueline66

Lies, lies, lies...It's not human instinct to stay away from human breast milk! Where did you get a crazy idea like that Adrian? It's programming from many many years of thinking we were meant to drink pasteurized cow's milk after a few short months of human breast milk. In other countries children are in kindergarten and standing while breastfeeding, and while that may sound gross or sick to you, it's a lot less strange than drinking it from a carton from an animal you never even met.

2. After a child is done breastfeeding a woman can continue to produce milk for years if she wanted too. It's memory sensors that are activated in the areola. Competition is optional and not recommended.

3. "no one knows what the effect of human breast milk will be"??? Do I have to write your articles for you? No one knows what growth hormones, GMO"s and a ton of other stuff you put into your body and you're worried about the one thing that was meant for human consumption. In these small quantities, I can bet my life it will do less harm than your Mocha Frap/double latte with extra carmel on top will do anyday!

4. Any milk has to be tested for diseases, and that is what they are doing according to your article.

5. Farm animals are not slaves either, so you are going to play the women's exploitation/low self esteem card, well the only one "casting them in that role" is you honey.

What a woman chooses to do with her body is her right and you my friend cannot say whether that is a good or bad choice for the individual only she can. You have a severely myopic view on the subject and I wish someone with a little more integrity would have written this article. Nice try.

Matthew
Matthew

Who needs five reasons? I've got one!

meth
meth

You see the Mom/Infant thing get animal-- Mom licking the snot off baby's face because she honestly cannot see anything dirty about him. The rest of us are imprisoned in a world of inhibition and that's how it is supposed to be, so please, please get this thing away from the rest of us.

mmb
mmb

Many of your points can also be applied to humans consuming livestock milk and genetically modified crops. Specifically, what the hormones do to our bodies and not knowing the long term affects of consuming. The point of the project, according to Simun's description, is to create a discussion around food systems and ethics, not to exploit women and steal breast milk from babies to create a mass market for the products. Which brings us to the next issue, you - a man - giving your opinion on what you deem socially acceptable for a woman to do with her body and it's fluids. As long as no babies or women are being harmed in the selling of breast milk, I don't see a problem with it and it wouldn't fall into the category of exploitation. How is it any different than any other job in which people use their body parts? How is it any different than you sitting at a computer and using your fingers and brain to type this article?

If her point is to get people thinking and talking about ethics and food systems, then I think it's a great success. What I just read from you sounds like an article written by someone who knows nothing about our current food system or thinks much of a woman's right to choose what she does with her body.

Btw, heating is pasteurization.

Genedoc60
Genedoc60

I have been a Chef for 30 years, never in my wildest dreams would I have even considered human milk as a food product.Infants use it for norishment, I would not. Flash in the pan food erotisism soon to die a quick death at warp speed.

Dave
Dave

We have no qualms consuming the milk of other species...yet recoil when it comes to our own. Weird.

kelaltieri
kelaltieri

@MissCai and I bet when human's milk cheese and ice cream become available at your local grocery store, you'll be first in line to buy it, right?

kelaltieri
kelaltieri

@Evangeline Claire Adult Nursing Rela .. what?

Smitty
Smitty

"Anon," if Creutzfelt-Jakob from mother's milk is dangerous to others, why would it not be dangerous to her baby?

Bottom line for the author and others who want the thing stopped for everyone: If you don't like the idea, no one is forcing it on you, so mind your business.

rsietsema
rsietsema

I think you need to bone up on prion-borne diseases, jacqueline66 -- there are very real dangers in eating human "food" -- spongiform encephalopathies have decimated entire tribes in New Guinea, and been responsible for such things as Creutzfeldt- Jakob Syndrome and Mad Cow Disease in the West. Taboos -- such as those against incest and cannibalism -- often have bases in human health, and being repulsed at the thought of eating human flesh or human byproducts has adaptive value. Just because a mother's milk is healthy for her baby, doesn't mean we should all be sharing it. Read "Deadly Feasts" by Richard Rhodes.

Thanks for your comments.

*8975
*8975

Let's rephrase. "We have no qualms consuming the meat of other species...yet recoil when it comes to our own."

Weird? I think not. People aren't commodities, and they're not animals, and our bodies should never, ever, be for sale.

anon
anon

Are you saying that cheese made from human breast milk is vegan? Are you crazy?

anon
anon

Nice try, Smitty. It's because the mother has already passed her genes onto her child, so, yes, if the mother has the syndrome, the baby might get it, but not from the milk. But in eating milk from someone totally unrelated, you expose yourself to the disease. This is how similar prion-based diseases were transmitted among cannibals in New Guinea, and how humans contracted Mad Cow from infected herds.

In addition, the baby is in singular need of nourishment from the mother, and it's worth taking the chance that a rare disease might be transmitted when weighed against the overall health of the baby. Eating human byproducts just for the fun of it isn't worth taking the chance for. But you've got to decide that for yourself. Prion-based diseases take years to incubate, so you'll probably never know what caused it anyway as you fall over foaming at the mouth, your brain looking like a dry sponge.

Astronautica57
Astronautica57

That's a matter of opinion. I don't personally recoil at the idea of tasting human flesh--in fact given the first legal or self-preservating opportunity, I would gladly indulge. If it was necessary to utilize the human body as a resource, I would certainly.

jacqueline66
jacqueline66

I didn't see anywhere that Dave used the word vegan. Maybe you are crazy.

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