Leave it to an NYU student to explore the ultimate locavore cuisine: human cheese. You read right. Miriam Simun, a New York University graduate student created this controversial project to provoke discussions on biotechnology, our farming methods and our relationship to nature as well as our own bodies.
It’s no secret that our food systems are in unprecedented times. Whether it’s Roundup Ready seeds, exposure to lethal bacterium, or additives and preservatives that turn food ingredients into food-like-stuffs that can survive longer than most household pets, these definitely ain’t your great-great-great-great ancestors hunting and gathering days.
Simun’s Human Cheese Project suggests that with our population tipping 7 billion in 2011, the norms of what we eat inevitably must change, as we can no longer afford to live in unsustainable, unhealthy and unethical times. Simun goes on to say that food is a site of contention and revolution, pointing to the debate over genetically modified foods, whether or not eating animal products is ethical and questions over conventional versus organic farming methods.
Vegans have long eschewed, cow, sheep, goat and camel milks, which are clearly created for their own offspring. One does not see a cheetah nursing a hippopotamus in nature; however preposterous this sounds, it’s not all that different from any human (pick one…Academy award winner Meryl Streep?) clamped onto the teat of a goat. What kind of effect does food designed for infant non-human animals have on humans? Perhaps a lot more than we think.
But Simun’s project isn’t just looking at the absurdity of our obsession with stealing animal milk from its rightful owners. We do have bigger crises to avert—like the environmental damage created by keeping billions of cows, sheep and goats impregnated in captivity so that we can enjoy the newest Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor, and the health problems associated with our over-consumption of dairy.
Currently sourcing human milk from 2 women—one in New York and the other in Wisconsin, Simun tells Grist.org, ” I am working to make a delicious Wisconsin human cheddar.” She’s held human cheese tastings, citing the feedback as running the gamut from confused to excited and outraged. Simun says, “[E]ating human milk after you’re done being 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.”
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