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?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Photo credit: Daquella Manera on flickr
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