A few weeks ago, my friend Lucy tweeted about a breast-milk-sharing Facebook group called “Human Milk For Human Babies.” There are a lot of weird things about the name of this group: is it meant to dissuade non-baby bodybuilders who chug breast milk, or is it a passive-aggressive anti-formula statement? Either way, someone replied to the tweet to ask if members of the group ever make cheese from their own breast milk. I think the question was meant as a joke, but I saw it as a call to action—nay, a spiritual compulsion—to investigate boobish cheesemaking practices. So I asked the internet: are lactating folks out there squeezing out homegrown breast milk cheese? Dear readers, the answer is yes.
We’ll start with what may be the most infamous example of 21st-century breast milk cheesemaking. In 2010, lauded New York chef Daniel Angerer wrote about the practice on his blog, explaining that his wife was pumping out that chesty nectar faster than their infant daughter could suck it down. “We are fortunate to have plenty of pumped mommy’s milk on hand, and we even freeze a good amount of it,” Angerer wrote on his blog, proving that a grown man should never, ever refer to “mommy’s milk.” Angerer explained that their small freezer ran out of space, so he and his wife were left with a choice: pitch the spare boob milk, which he said would be “like wasting gold,” or turn it into an artisanal human dairy product. They chose the latter, and Angerer shared the recipe on his blog. Although he assured readers that the “mommy’s milk cheese” was not produced or sold in his restaurant, critics were quick to attack the experiment, even calling it “cannibalistic.”
This wasn’t the first—or the last—time restaurateurs experimented with human milk. In 2008, a chef in Switzerland planned to serve breast milk soup, while a London restaurant actually sold breast milk ice cream in 2011. Also in 2011 (the Year of the Boob!), New York University graduate student Miriam Simun opened The Lady Cheese Shop, a temporary art installation featuring cheeses such as Wisconsin Bang which came straight from the teat of a lawyer’s assistant. Then in 2013, biologist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas extracted bacteria from the belly buttons, feet, mouths, and tears of participants to create an art installation showcasing 11 “human cheeses.” And, as we all know, it ain’t a dairy controversy until PETA chimes in. The animal rights organization spoke out in favor of the practice, even formally asking Ben & Jerry’s to switch from dairy “stolen from tormented calves” to human milk in the brand’s ice cream.
All of the above campaigns appear to have received ample criticism. The Takeout does not endorse the practice, which seems culinarily dubious and also potentially disastrous should capitalism ensnare the aforementioned boobs in its demanding claws. But despite the denunciation from the general populace, people are presumably still making boob cheese. I found a few mentions of the practice on Reddit, and my breastfeeding friends tell me of vague whispers in their tightly guarded Facebook groups. Actually tracking down a batch of fresh breast milk cheese remains bit of a mammary mystery. But we’re just fine leaving this mystery unsolved.