Burning Man is often regarded as the festival of self-expression and freedom from the strictures of societal “conditioning,” if you will. It is a site often laden with practices and substances such as hallucinogenic drugs, open orgies, and of course, massive, burning structures among many other things to see. As is often the case, Burning Man is also the locale for experimentation, and the most recent interation of the event was no exception.
Miki Agrawal, founder of niche companies such as Thinx and Tushy, was recently on-site and trying out a newer product on the scene. As Burning Man is often referred to by the festival-goers as a way of practicing “radical self-reliance” and relying on “inner resources,” Agrawal kicked it up a notch and began to serve helpings of milk – her own breast milk. Patrons of her “inner resource” found it useful for coffee while others were drinking it straight, either for a hangover cure or simply because they had run out of water. Says Agrawal of her own home-brewed product, “it tastes like sweet coconut milk!”
While breast milk is not necessarily a new phenomenon in terms of being used in commercial products, it is a rather taboo subject with a bit of controversy still surrounding it. Klee Brasserie in Manhattan was banned from using the product on-site to make cheese when it was discovered that the chef’s own wife was supplying the main ingredient. A London-based ice cream company also had used breast milk for a line of its product before it was confiscated in 2011 and then subsequently resurfaced in 2015. The Village Voice also jokingly commented, “Breast-milk cheese forces babies to compete with hipster foodies for mother’s milk, and a baby can’t punch a foodie in the face,” in regard to the primary uses breast milk should serve.
Societal issues with the topic aside for now, however, there are arguments that human breast milk is simply less beneficial health-wise than the tried-and-true method of drinking milk supplied by dairy cows. While breast milk is certainly comparable to the store-bought dairy product, the argument lies more in nutritional value. And the numbers seem to support cow’s milk over the typical human female.
In terms of protein concentration, a serving of cow’s milk holds about three times the protein of human breast milk, nearly 8 grams of protein to 2.5 grams per cup. Cow’s milk also provides about three and a half times the amount of calcium as human breast milk as well: 276 milligrams to 79 milligrams per cup. The Journal of Royal Society of Medicine also notes a similar correlation between these figures and comments, “any adult who claims a health boost from breast milk is probably experiencing a textbook case of the placebo effect.”
But Agrawal remains insistent that the issue should be discussed more than it is already, despite the apparent fetish-level desire by some for human breast milk, be it for their preconceived notions of its health benefits or otherwise.
“It made me realize that most people…know very little about motherhood and birth and post-birth and that this needs to be mandatory learning for all humans. Every human has been birthed and raised somehow, and yet even the smartest people have no idea what this process looks like. Nobody learns how to be a parent, let alone a good one. Time to change this!”