A recent UK Guardian article profiled a London creamery’s recent experimentation with ice cream made from human breast milk. The reaction on the internet was apparently such to merit a follow-up opinion piece by Sarah Ditum the very next day, which was kindly forwarded to me by a friend, Sarah Morrison, who also writes for the Guardian. The Ditum piece conceded that, yes, breast-milk ice cream is just plain gross, but then investigated the unclear reasons as to why this is so.
The examples of our irrationality regarding dairy is predictable: Why is it that humans exhibit few reservations about consuming milk products derived from every species but our own? Our careless consumption of dairy throughout our lives renders the argument that humans would naturally reject human milk past nursing age a weak one. Something more emotional is afoot here, and rationalizing our revulsion to the only nutrient mother nature designed explicitly for us may lie beyond the explanatory powers of cool reason.
Ditum’s own explanation is that humans have a hypocritical revulsion to foods that are more willingly given. This just isn’t true. While most of our dairy comes from factory farms with questionable conditions, there’s a reason milk cartons nevertheless depict happy cows in green pastures: people do not like the idea of forced extraction, in any sense. Marketers understand and manipulate this empathy mechanism, built into our DNA as a social primate, routinely: When was the last time you saw images of mutilated goats splashed across your cheese wheel?
Also, Ditum’s characterization of breast milk as the “ultimate, natural free range food” is ludicrous. How is it that one can dismiss cow’s milk for being infused with artificial hormones and questionable feed (which it may or may not be; organic free-range cow’s milk is no longer an elusive product), and then suggest that milk from humans, a species absolutely dedicated to ingesting maximally survivable doses of poison, as the healthier choice?
On that note, imagine what kind of quality-control labels would appear on breast milk products: “Free Range Housewives”, “Vegan and Somehow Producing Milk”, “Hormone-Free and Crying Uncontrollably for Reasons not Entirely Clear”.
Our revulsion to human dairy is beyond reason. No matter how you dice it, it’s just gross.