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Human Cheese: The Ethical and Sustainable Choice?

Human Cheese: The Ethical and Sustainable Choice?

The Living Systems course in New York University’s Interactive Technology Program is raising some interesting questions about sustainability. In the fall of 2010, student Miriam Simun wanted to explore questions around the redesign of the food system as our world changes. In the description of her project, Human Cheese, she writes:

 

A realization is occurring that the ways many of us have been living are unsustainable, unhealthy, and unethical. Industrialized food systems are a prime example: we abuse animals and exploit people in creating food, pollute the earth as we distribute and sell food, and destroy our bodies (our personal living systems) as we consume it. As global urban populations increase, developing nations industrialize, and energy, water and land become ever more scarce resources, how will we redesign our food systems to produce healthier, kinder, more sustainably and efficiently produced food?

To explore this question, she chose to “develop a system for sourcing, creating, and distributing human cheese” and muses that if we want to continue eating and enjoying cheese, “perhaps it is most natural, ethical and healthy to eat human cheese?”

In an interview with Danielle Gould from Food and Tech Connect, Simun explained that she obtained two different sources of breast milk to test her process. She obtained donated milk from a woman in New York who had too much and also purchased milk from a woman in Wisconsin to make a “delicious Wisconsin human cheddar.” She is looking for other women in New York City to work with.

In her interview with Gould, Simun explains:

Human Cheese is in a particularly interesting place – eating human milk after you are a baby, especially from someone other than your mother, is such a huge taboo – and yet, human milk is arguably the most natural food in the world. Certainly milk meant for other animal’s babies is kind of strange. Unnatural?

While cheese made with human milk may be more natural and more appropriate for human consumption, is it also the most ethical choice?  Simun isn’t sure, but has pondered the issue. Ethical sourcing of the milk would result in a high price. Mass production to lower the price could result in exploitation of poor mothers.

While Simun isn’t the first one to have tried this experiment using breast milk (New York City chef Daniel Angerer made and served cheese using his wife’s breast milk earlier this year and made his recipe available to anyone who wants to try it), her approach and the questions she is asking raise interesting issues that Angerer’s experiment did not delve into.

What do you think? Would you try human cheese? Is it the most ethical way to produce cheese for human consumption?

Related posts:

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Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

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Photo credit: Daquella Manera on flickr

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200 comments

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4:30AM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Exploitation of any living creature is wrong but if humans have to exploit anyone it should only be other humans. Of course it wouldn't have to be exploitative but human greed for profit would no doubt make it so.

Dairy foods result in the birth of excess calves who are then either destroyed or all too often live their lives in the appalling factory farming system. So ethically if you can't stomach human cheese just stop eating dairy foods. It is totally unethical to contribute to the suffering of any creature just bacause they are not human!

6:32AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

I don't think I could eat it

6:14AM PST on Feb 18, 2012

Yes YUCK.

Check out what Pepsi is up to!!!

http://www.examiner.com/evangelical-in-national/pepsico-moves-forward-with-aborted-fetal-cell-sweetener

2:41PM PST on Feb 17, 2012

Human cheese?? Yuck!!

5:03AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

some breeds of cow(and I guess sheep and goat) were selectively bred to produce "more than enough" milk. back in the day when the things were more simple/humble/needed(?)

with more than enough for a calf, there would be some left for the human people.
and they we/they figure out how to up that ablity to make even more milk

with this, we would need a way to make a new kind of woman with working porn star boobs. some women allow their children to breast feed up to when ever they child wants to stop. allegeldy it is a beautful, helpful, natural thing for a 6 year old to suck on mom after a gruling day at preschool/half day kindergarden.

the argument we don't need milk/need it anymore is because of technology. you are people who think there was ample avalible almond/soy/coconut/rice/hemp/oat milk "back in the day"?

and who is to say dogs would not do it if they had the thumbs and intelligence to do so? it might be symbiotic but aphids produce honeydew for ants. Ants milk insects.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827202513.htm


as far as "eetss unnaturalzzzzzzzzz" so is everything else we/you do.

when does a bird wear pants? when does a butterfly have jewelry? When have you seen wild cars graze in the fields? Surgery. many of us now do unnatural things. we have reinvented natural.

it is natural for angler fish to absorb their mate, it is natural for a wasp to inject her eggs into a Caterpillar. it is natural to live in trees and sleep in th

4:49AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

Okay:

1. They should have put a "hell no!" button on the poll.
2. There is NO WAY this would not lead to the exact same type of exploitation of women that we do to dairy cows. Any time there's a buck to be made......
3. It won't even help dairy-allergic kids since the recipes include some cow milk in them
4. Incredibly this is not a "huge taboo" everywhere. A fatwa that allows women to work with non-relative males decreed that if the female employee BREAST FEEDS HER CO-WORKERS, they become her "sons" and then no problem. So this may be the one use: say "here, eat this cheese, 'son' " to your male colleagues instead of taking off your shirt in the conference room while everyone from the boss to the mailroom boy lines up to, well....you get the picture.
5. In terms of food safety, this would be a nightmare to regulate.

4:42AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

I'm so glad I haven't ate anything today yet. :P

4:41AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

Golly gee, give a thought to human contaminants in the human cheese that would likely make sick/kill humans.

WTF?

I saw this, and my brain stopped working for a moment from the sheer stupidity of what I was seeing.

If you want to breastfeed your baby, good because you should, but the reason why doing that is OK, and (cough gag) human cheese is not is because it's understood that your baby is likely to already have survived any harmful contaminants that you have.

A stranger would not be so lucky.

Please let this human cheese idea die, go away, and never come back.

4:30AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

Gag!! Choke! ... Spit!

9:46PM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

Thanks for sharing this piece of news. Wouldn't this kind of cheese be expensive?

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