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What's the big deal about breast-milk cheese?

Much as I love a pun, I plan to distinguish myself from the other bloggers who have written in the past few days about the New York City chef who made cheese from his wife's breast milk by refraining from using terms such as keeping "abreast" of the news.

I further distinguish myself by actually having talked with Daniel Angerer, chef at the Klee Brasserie and creator of said cheese. (He and wife Lori Mason own the restaurant.)

According to Angerer, he got the idea to make breast-milk cheese when his wife's milk supply proved more than ample for feeding their month-old daughter. As the freezer grew fuller, the couple looked into donating to a milk bank. That process, they learned, takes some time, as the donor needs to be screened to make sure her milk is safe for others to consume.

In the meantime, Angerer, who says he is preparing to open a cheese restaurant, figured he'd see what kind of cheese mother's milk would make. It took some effort to turn two gallons of his wife's milk into serviceable cheese, as human milk doesn't curdle and needs added ingredients to help it along the path to cheesehood. He documented the whole process in great detail on his blog.

I could have told him: Don't blog about making breast-milk cheese unless you want to get inundated with comments.

The commenters ranged from revolted to curious and supportive. A few of Angerer's customers said they'd like to try the cheese. He served it to several--not at the restaurant, he says, but at his home. He also shared it with a few members of the press, some of whom made embarrassing spectacles of themselves (my observation, not Angerer's). All told, Angerer says, fewer than a dozen people outside his family actually tasted the food he'd named "Mommy's Milk Cheese."

Still, the blogosphere has been in a predictable uproar. Angerer, no stranger to publicity, notes that, "As soon as a boob is involved here in America, it seems to become sexual."

In any case, Angerer's wife is on the brink of donating her milk to a bank, at last, and it seems the family's adventures in human-milk cheese-making may be behind them.

But I was left wondering: What's the big deal about breast-milk cheese? Is there something inherently bad about it, or does the idea just leave a bad taste in our mouths?

I spoke with Melinda Johnson, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, who put it this way: "When you take the emotion out of it, he's just making cheese. We make cheese from milk from all kinds of mammals, from cows to goats. Humans are mammals."

"Nutritionally," Johnson continued, "it poses no more risk than any other raw milk." Of course, should the mother be HIV positive, for instance, we wouldn't want to make cheese from her milk. "If she's feeding her infant her milk," Johnson notes, "she probably has a clean bill of health, anyway."

The way the milk is processed is of greater concern, Johnson explains. Just as with any cheese made from raw milk, there's potential for contamination if the containers and utensils used aren't sterile.

Otherwise, Johnson says, "When you step back and look at it, it's just milk. Where do you think milk comes from, anyway?"

Okay, readers, it's your turn to, er, express your opinions. (Sorry; couldn't resist!)


By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Food Safety and Recalls , Infectious Disease , Motherhood , Nutrition and Fitness , Women's Health  
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Next: Is That Right? Better-for-you fruit drinks?

Comments

Would you make blood pudding from human blood? Would you try it if someone did?

Posted by: MStreet1 | March 11, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

That is just too gross to even think about. Thanks for ruining my breakfast. I'm going to throw up now.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | March 11, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I just cannot fathom the revulsion that people feel about breast milk. I have heard so many people who are disgusted by it, refuse to store it in their refrigerators, gag at the thought of tasting it, etc. Yet we feed it to babies!? It's not gross at all. People need to grow up.

Posted by: drl97 | March 11, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

"We make cheese from milk from all kinds of mammals, from cows to goats. Humans are mammals."

Also a good argument for eating dogs and cats. Not to mention horses.

Posted by: tmentzer | March 11, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with Breast Milk Cheese, the issue I have is "That process, they learned, takes some time, as the donor needs to be screened to make sure her milk is safe for others to consume."

So in essence while they were going through the proces to have this woman checked for diseases to make sure her breast milk was safe for consumption
he went on and made cheese and gave it to people... that is a little skeezy, but then again we are never 100% confident in the food supply chain are we

Posted by: myass1184 | March 11, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

before long, women who provide this product will claim some abuse over one thing or another a man has done.

Let's have some Semen products, to balance things out, lest this become a female dominated whatever - I've had quite enough of the tittilating female overexposure in my news.

Yeah, let's try cat breast milk, dog, horse, any mammal.

Why is female human breast milk getting all this attention?

Because it's provided by human attention seekers, and that is all they are.

Posted by: pgibson1 | March 11, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

There used to be a company called Manbeef. They had a website and would sell human meat. The meat was purchased from the estate of the deceased, with the deceased's prior consent. They had tips and recipes on preparing meals. I don't see it now, and don't know what happened to it.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | March 11, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I would draw the line at consuming something which is the product of another human body. The exception (and there always is one): blood or blood products in the course of medical treatment, or organ or tissue transplants. Even these, however are USED, but not consumed, e.g., eaten. Otherwise, this story simply smacks of salaciousness and a little publicity stunting. So, could a child consume cheese made from its own mother's milk? Probably. The husband or other persons? No way.

Posted by: sailmaker1943 | March 11, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

All cheese is breast milk cheese. It's just that most cheese is from the breasts of other species, which in my view is a lot weirder and more disgusting than human milk cheese. Not to mention the absolute filth that most dairy animals live in. Flies, fecal matter, udder sores, pus... yum! Most people who have ever actually seen the inside of a modern dairy facility would choose human milk over other-species milk anyday.

Posted by: VirginiaDad | March 11, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

before long, women who provide this product will claim some abuse over one thing or another a man has done.

Let's have some Semen products, to balance things out, lest this become a female dominated whatever - I've had quite enough of the tittilating female overexposure in my news.

Yeah, let's try cat breast milk, dog, horse, any mammal.

Why is female human breast milk getting all this attention?

Because it's provided by human attention seekers, and that is all they ar
=======================================
...um, you DO realize that human milk is intended to be consumed by humans, do you not?

Posted by: carlaclaws | March 11, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I would have made breast milk ice cream instead of cheese.

Posted by: LolaS1 | March 11, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Virginia Dad: Modern dairy farms that produce milk for sale must be clean and inspected frequently. Those dairy facilities are probably cleaner than your kitchen. Stainless steel equipment is used and cows are not milked by hand. Sick or diseased cows are not used for milk production. They get regular and very strict veterinarian examinations. Do a little research before you tell us how dirty it is. By the way, have you ever seen the kitchens in most commercial restaurants -- now there's a sight that would turn your stomach.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | March 11, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Humans are mammals, they naturally feed upon breast milk, yet many in our current society are aghast at the thought of this basic fact. I realize cheese products made from human breast milk is a stretch. More unusual is that the latest generations of humans are the only generations of human beings in the long history of humanity that has not enjoyed breast milk as the staple food for infant children.

Posted by: g-lo | March 11, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Mmmmmmm. MILF Milk.

Posted by: feasors | March 11, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm just impressed his wife had TWO GALLONS of extra breast milk. Does she do anything besides pump milk all day? Wow.

Posted by: Samquilla | March 11, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to put this one in the same category as haggis and peas on my personal menu.

Thanks, but no thanks. LOL

Posted by: js_edit | March 11, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I'd try it, but I don't see anything wrong with him making it, or with anyone else trying it. Of course I did eat a deep fried cicada last time they were around & I never thought I do that either, so given the chance, who knows, I might try it.

Posted by: talleyl | March 11, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

All milk comes from somebody's breasts, doesn't it? I am at a loss at the squeamishness surrounding this subject. Is it any worse than getting donated blood that came from someone else's body?

Posted by: rb63 | March 11, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

creepiest article I've ever seen on the WP.

Posted by: MyFellowAmericans | March 11, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

So VeryCheesy.com LOL

Posted by: tuzoner | March 11, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

All women don't eat just one type of food, so their milk will taste faintly different from each other's. The jalapeno eater's will taste different from the chocolate eater's.

And although no animal milk that I have tasted is sweeter than my own, my babies never got fat. Maybe human milk could be the base of a new low calorie sweetener.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | March 11, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

@carlaclaws

...um, you DO realize that human milk is intended to be consumed by humans, do you not?

yup.

at what age do most species wean from this substance?

In another light, tell me of a species of animal that continues, willfully, beyond infancy, to continue to breastfeed ?

Humans in hungershocked countries do out of desperation - they don't hold a cheese and icecream party.

I would expect that once the infant is old enough, their mothers give them solid food at a fairly early age - less than a year.

with that in mind, why would you continue to offer an adult human breast milk ?

I will claim that there are perversions of every natural state - mostly perverted by humans.

it's meant for BABIES.

Posted by: pgibson1 | March 11, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem with Breast Milk Cheese, the issue I have is "That process, they learned, takes some time, as the donor needs to be screened to make sure her milk is safe for others to consume."

So in essence while they were going through the proces to have this woman checked for diseases to make sure her breast milk was safe for consumption
he went on and made cheese and gave it to people... that is a little skeezy, but then again we are never 100% confident in the food supply chain are we

*****

DITTO!!

Posted by: nall92 | March 11, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Don't tell Congress about this. they'll have to commission a study on it. Seriously, if they have a need for breast milk, why wouldn't the recepients also consume acheese?

Posted by: johnturkal1 | March 11, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

How is this not a form of cannibalism?

Posted by: cschulte | March 11, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I also do not understand the squeamishness. We all (ok not ALL, but others have exaggerated things in their posts, so I'm joining in!) drank breast milk before. Yes, it wasn't turned into cheese, but first off, doing anything with semen would be like doing something with female genital discharge, not milk. Come on, now. Secondly, it's something new! Heck, Andrew Zimmerman ate smelly tofu that I almost lost my lunch just watching, yet people do it all the time.
I always say don't knock it til you try it! I find blue cheese disgusting. But I've tried it, know I hate it, and hate that mold taste. Yuck!

To each their own, kudos to this chef for a great experiment!!!

Posted by: greeem01 | March 11, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I've never had to pump breast milk since I always had my babies with me, however I've heard from a reliable source that it tastes just like vanilla icecream. Still, the thought of doing something other with human milk than feeding a baby (or a husband) really does sound very unethical and hazardous.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | March 11, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Hey, something to do with the gallons of breast milk in my freezer that my son refused to have anything to do with! (He believes milk comes from boobies, not bottles. ::sigh::)

I'm always amused by how freaked out people get by breast milk. I'm not leaping to drink it, but it's not disgusting either.

Posted by: marag | March 11, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Sad, but telling, to see so many alien-like comments that cannot respect the fundamental humanity in breastfeeding of children. Sitting Bull once said that these foreign invaders "are giving my country a bad name." These people cannot even respect the rights of infants to drink milk from their mothers.

Posted by: g-lo | March 11, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

also, please remember that it's not as if this chef was selling it at his restaurant. those that wanted to try it did, but it wasn't sold, it's not the newest commodity, it seems like it was just to see that it could be done!

Posted by: greeem01 | March 11, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

But can this chef milk a cat?

Posted by: misterbumbles | March 11, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I breastfeed my baby and I believe that breastmilk is more pure than cow's milk. It's gift from mother nature. It helps cancer patients and is said to aid a child's ear infection simply by placing a couple drops in a child's ear. And human milk is meant for human consumption...cow's milk was meant for cows.

Posted by: shebz | March 11, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I think WP stock fell on this article.

This one really takes the cheese cake.

REPULSIVE beyond comprehension.

oh my god - please WP -

WTF is this crap ?

BREAST MILK CHEESE ?

WTF

WHO is exploring this ?

my god -

what a CREEPY subject.

What's next ? fermented urine ?

Posted by: MyFellowAmericans | March 11, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

We are talking about human breast milk. We are humans. I don't understand the aversion? Why is it more acceptable that we consume the milk of large stincky animals that stand around in their own poop?

Posted by: jemill1 | March 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

There used to be a company called Manbeef. They had a website and would sell human meat. The meat was purchased from the estate of the deceased, with the deceased's prior consent. They had tips and recipes on preparing meals. I don't see it now, and don't know what happened to it.


____________________________________________

C'mon, BitterBill, you can't believe anyone's falling for that. Obviously, not, but funny.

Posted by: misterbumbles | March 11, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Breast milk is a blood product. That brings in some serious considerations for human consumption outside of the immediate family.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | March 11, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

New Winter Olympic Sport: Hurling.

Posted by: Apostrophe | March 11, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

People have already said it, but I have to say it again. Why are people so repulsed by human breast milk? How is it that people are more comfortable with milk from other animals like cows and goats than they are with milk from a human? And the comparisons with products created from urine or semen are completely ridiculous. We don't normally create products for human consumption from other animals urine, so how could you compare milk to urine. I have heard of people eating testicals from certain animals, but that's much different from your everyday milk.

Posted by: PersonL | March 11, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"In another light, tell me of a species of animal that continues, willfully, beyond infancy, to continue to breastfeed ?"

Um, every human who drinks cow's milk after infancy is someone who continues to breastfeed after infancy. What do you think a cow's udder is?

I admit I find the idea of drinking human breast milk a little gross, but I'm self-critical enough to realize this is a completely unfounded and illogical reaction.

Posted by: crazycatlady | March 11, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

In Africa HIV infected women have cultured their breast milk into yogurt for their babies. The culture destroys the virus and makes the milk suitable for the babies. Pretty cool eh?

Personally I have a cultural bias against ingesting breast milk from a human. I know it's a cultural aesthetic and is probably pretty silly, but there you have it.

Posted by: greeenmtns | March 11, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

This whole subject is pointless.

If Angerer's cheese were a big hit and he started getting orders for it, where's he gonna get the milk? Since he was just fiddling around with his wife's excess, why did he even publicize it?

Unless you have an unlimited source of raw material, you really not going anywhere with this product.

How udderly stupid. (Pun intended.)

Posted by: haveaheart | March 11, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Oh! This is some kinda good fun! Great experiment! You gotta wonder: is it a hard cheese or a soft cheese? Can you crumble it on a salad or use it in an omelette? I mean: what's the practical applications? Cheese and crackers... hmmm.
Anyway, I've always thought it's kinda weird that there's a *Dairy Industry*. I mean, who thought up that one? You just know it was some guy down on the farm. You can hear him thinking: "Whoa! Those calves really dig that! I should try it too!" And the next thing ya know, you've got strawberries and cream, froot loops and milk and a whole freezer aisle full of flavored, frozen, milk products - from COWS!!! I gotta admit: I would never look at a cow and think I'd wanna suck ... Shudder! I just makes ya shudder.

Posted by: dschalton | March 11, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: irsbob | March 11, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

the fact that this is even an issue speaks volumes about our curious psychological makeup as a species.

cows' milk is intended for young cows, goats' milk for young goats, etc. consumption of these products by humans are "off label" uses. we also eat many other things which seem very strange, but our digestive machinery seems very versatile indeed.

my question: is the human milk cheese any good?

Posted by: jrm1 | March 11, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Whats the big deal...i bet its good. Did you know that we are the only species on the planet that consumes the milk of another species. Nature says we are the odd ones.

Posted by: BrownTown5000 | March 11, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Some great things that taste good come out of cows milk such as all kinds of great cheese and yogurt, not to mention that milk can taste really great with cookies, but since I've switched to Silk in my coffee, I feel a lot better.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | March 11, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Eating something derived from the human body is disgusting. What will this "chef" call his dish made from the placenta of a new born? Not a very dignified statement but there is nothing dignified about this couple.

Posted by: bobbo2 | March 11, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

News Flash!!
The human body, exposed or covered, is not disgusting. Human breast milk is not revolting, not in any way. Humans are mammals. Milk from mammals perpetuates each species. I am extremely pleased that my mama fed me from her breasts, this act blessed me with an excellent immune system, capable of fighting infection in so many ways. Thank you Moms everywhere!

Posted by: thw2001 | March 11, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I want to know why all of the options in your Not Scientific survey are negative!
The closest thing to neutral is "I'll try anything once" That is like the guy on TV who eats Yak penis.
The simple way you have set this up is making it seem like there is something wrong with humans consuming the most perfect food made for humans to consume. The food we feed our most precious humans. At least leave one spot open for the open minded people who realize that all of us should have started life on mothers milk.
Yes. I would gladly eat cheese from mothers milk.
Do you know what they put in "American Cheese"?

Posted by: busstopbud | March 11, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Well what did it taste like? I like Gouda.

Somehow I have the idea it would be very rich and sort of musky flavored would need smoking maybe, it would truly be American processed cheeze.

Posted by: ORNOT | March 11, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I have often thought that a pumping station in an ice cream store would be a hit in California. Add a little flavor, whip it in a chiller and make a little gelato for the baby on a hot day. This is up the same alley. Good going Daniel and Lori.

Posted by: mwalker4 | March 11, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Could this be the long-sought answer to the kosher cheeseburger?

Posted by: JeremyB | March 11, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

What about DickMilk.com cheese?

Posted by: tuzoner | March 11, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Gross. But unlike cow's milk, at least it's not cruelly produced, so I won't complain. And bonus points for at least going to the species it was intended for.

(If you think your cow's milk was made by happy cows, you have some reading to do and horrific undercover videos to watch.)

Posted by: sarahabc | March 11, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Bon Appetit!

Posted by: fionalowther | March 12, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like a NYC foodie trend. Probably go for $95.00 / Lb.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | March 12, 2010 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, I can't say I'm all that shocked by the negative comments. Just speaks to the ignorance that permeates our society. Comparing human milk to other bodily excretions? Come on now. And if you think it's so terrible, the milk could always be pasteurized first. Sure, it would kill all the good bacteria, but most people don't know/understand the difference. As a lactating mother myself, I'd jump at the chance to make some food products from my milk. Much healthier (for humans) than what comes out of a cow.

Posted by: sh0rtchica | March 13, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

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