Human Cheese Please

It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the bright idea of making cheese from human breast milk. You may remember that I covered this a couple of years ago when I blogged about the Swiss restaurant that was serving dishes made from human breast milk. Here we have an entire cheese shop in NYC selling produce made from human milk. Given that cheese is already rancid milk, I guess it can’t get much more disgusting. Still the lady is right – why is it alright to eat animal lactation and not human?


Filed under General Thoughts, Weird Story of the Week

24 responses to “Human Cheese Please

  1. Rox

    There was a case of a shop doing this in London within the last year. The owner claimed to have a group of healthy volunteer “donors”, but it was stopped on the grounds of a potential health risk. Don’t forget that cows have to be checked for diseases which humans might get. Humans might get any diseases which other humans have got. What kind of lady sells her milk ?

    As for the idea, a schoolfriend of mine suggested it in 1958. My granddaughter recently proposed first duck cheese, then dog cheese. Why not horse cheese ?

  2. biopunk

    Rox nailed it.

    HIV would be the main risk, and a population that is doing it for the money wouldn’t be my first choice for a donor pool. Neither would someone who would rather sell her milk than feed it to her child.

    But this bizarre ethical justification in favour of it probably doesn’t extend to extracting rennet from people’s stomachs to produce this cheese.

  3. I’d taste it if I were in New York right now. Then again I’ve drunk my own breast milk so it’s no big deal

  4. Tom Rees

    Next stop will be a store where you can do your own milking…

  5. Gerard Simons

    Just sounds weird. Cheese made from womens’ breast milk, if at all, should be for toddlers. NOT adults! The idea is just impractical, for want of a better description. Saving an orphan puppy’s life on a woman’s breast milk would be far more practical than the cheese!

  6. There is absolutely no way that HIV could survive the cheese-making process. Which is not to say there is no disease risk, especially for other human breast milk products, but of all the potential health and ethics concerns this raises, viruses in cheese would be at the very bottom of my list.

    Now I gotta admit, this totally skeeves me out. But that’s a personal thing, and if people want to do this, I don’t see a major problem with it being done on a person-to-person consensual basis (commercialization is an issue because of possible health concerns, and I don’t have a strong opinion on that).

    To those making comments like “What kind of lady sells her milk ?” or “someone who would rather sell her milk than feed it to her child [would not be my first choice for a donor pool]”, those comments are frankly a little bit ignorant and borderline offensive. I know you don’t mean anything by it, but I also don’t think you know what you are talking about.

    First of all, even for women who are currently breastfeeding their children, it’s not an either/or choice. Women can potentially produce far more breast milk than their children need — it’s a biofeedback system where the amount produced adjusts to match the amount being consumed. If it didn’t work like that, how the hell would anybody ever wean their baby? Do you think that when the baby is born, the milk valve turns on to full blast, and then on day 417 the milk valve shuts entirely off and the baby better be on solid foods by then? Or how would twins ever have survived before formula? Do you think they each got half as much food? Breast milk productions adjusts to consumption; if it didn’t, twins would never survive, and women whose babies were being weaned would be in a world of hurt as they kept producing milk at the same level while the baby consumed less and less (ever talk to a breastfeeding woman whose baby has been napping for too long? It’s apparently pretty uncomfortable…)

    Secondly, women who have breastfeed will continue to produce milk indefinitely as long as it is expressed on a regular basis, even if their children are no longer nursing. (You’ve really never heard of a wet nurse?) For all we know, the children of the women producing milk for this cheese may have switched entirely to solid foods long ago.

    There are indeed potentially serious ethical issues surrounding the sale of breast milk for consumption by adults, but the absurd notion that breastfeeding women are taking milk away from their baby is not one of them. Please.

    The potential health issues are very real, and while pasteurization is a totally safe option (and in fact in modern countries, pasteurized donated milk in “milk banks” has replaced wet nurses for those who are unable to nurse their babies but are really turned off by formula — although I admit I just found out about the existence of those while researching this comment), given the “crunchy” personality of those who tend to be interested in this it’s probably a safe bet they aren’t pasteurizing it. (Though as I noted, except for very young soft cheeses, pasteurization is not necessary in that case; the bacteria associated with the cheese-making process outproduce and ultimately starve anything else that might be living in the curd)

    I do think there are also valid ethical issues involved in the commercialization of any breast milk-based products. If it were to become lucrative (and I think there’s no real danger of that, but hypothetically…) then women living in poverty could indeed be incentivized to engage in an activity they may not be altogether comfortable with, and which they may feel objectifies them. Breastfeeding is a dicey feminist issue in general, since
    on the one hand you want to empower women to make the choice to do so without having to sacrifice their careers or constantly be shunted into bathrooms and back rooms (which means employers allowing a time and place for breastfeeding moms to pump milk while on the job, and it means society being completely accepting of women breastfeeding in public) — while on the other hand, pressuring women to breastfeed, when they may not feel comfortable with it or may not wish to incur the physical demands and time demands that breastfeeding entails, is a distinctly misogynist thing to do. Commercializing the sale of breast milk just intensifies this ethical can of worms.

    But PLEASE. Casting aspersions on a woman who would sell her breast milk “instead of” giving it to her children is both biologically ignorant and frankly somewhat anti-feminist. If a woman wants to bake cookies with her breast milk and give them to her friends, while *I* ain’t gonna eat ’em because I’m a bit squeamish about that (I won’t even taste my wife’s breast milk), but I think that’s just fantastic if that’s what she wants to do (and if her friends who are eating the cookies are aware of the potential health risks, of course).

    • There’s a side issue in that some people have made unsubstantiated health claims about the health benefits of adult consumption of breast milk, which pisses me off just as any other unsubstantiated alt med health claim does. But it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s breast milk per se.

      I’m also concerned about how much so-called “lactivists” have trumped up the health benefits of breastfeeding infants (as opposed to formula). Certainly there appear to be some benefits, but I am not convinced they are as significant as they are sometimes made out to be, and as I said earlier it is my opinion that pressuring women into breastfeeding is a distinctly anti-feminist thing to do. As a man, I do not feel particular comfortable navigating that can of worms… but it does concern me.

  7. Rox

    Pasteurisation is not a totally safe option for cheese making or anything else. Only sterilisation would be a totally safe option, and then only if the product is kept sterile at every stage after the sterilisation.

    The milk for making soft cheeses is often pasteurised to reduce the risk of listeria in particular, but some cheesemakers maintain that this increases the risk, because if listeria is then introduced, it has less competition. This applies most to artisanal rather than superclean factory producti0n, but that is what we are talking about here.

    However, all this refers to cow’s milk (or similar). The risk of bacterial infection from other human beings would be huge. We get many infections simply by touching surfaces which other people have touched. Milk and cheese are superb media for bacteria to grow in. People used to catch diseases from the milkmaids selling milk in open jugs.

    I still maintain that in practice women who sold their milk to make cheese would be most likely to be needy, possibly even drug addicts, and the possibilities of undesirable infections are endless. There may well be a few cranky idealists to start with, but if the idea caught on, the cheesemakers would never be able to rely on women who didn’t really need the money, and those who did need the money might cause all kind of trouble. In fact, in cities like London, overcrowding has caused almost forgotten illnesses like tuberculosis to become prevalent among some parts of the population, and there is no pretending that this can not be a problem in milk. Let’s be realistic, as fortunately the authorities have been.

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  9. Rox

    I was just getting interested in the cheese again, and then I got to the final comment I had been directed to and the question “What do you think ?”
    I think this Tiger Woods must be a bit crazy. What has this got to do with human cheese ? I don’t even understand it.

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