The Real Reason People Don't Drink Pig's Milk

There's a small, pig cheese-making operation in the Netherlands called Piggy's Palace. Piggy's Palace pig farmer Erik Stegnik regularly milks pigs. "Every two hours they release the milk for about 30 seconds so you have to be quick," Stegnik told Vice. "Four of us were at it with coffee cups, and per time you only get about 100 milliliters." One hundred milliliters? That's less than half a cup. As the Illinois Pork Producers Association points out, if you milked a pig all day, you'd get a meager 13 pounds of milk (via On Pasture). A cow, by comparison, can give you 65 pounds a day. 

There's another reason that Piggy's Palace farmers use coffee cups. According to the Illinois Pork Producers Association, "The technology of a 14 cupped mechanized milking machine that can milk a pig in 15 seconds is not available to pork producers." Stegnik and his crew undoubtedly had to work hard for their 30 seconds of pig's milk. Cow udders are big and soft. But pig udders? They're "hard and hidden," someone at a Flying Pigs stall told The Village Voice

Dr. Charles Maxwell, professor of animal science at the University Of Arkansas told The Takeout that pig's milk is unlikely to hit the market without someone making a revolutionary discovery, "like it kept you 10 years younger or it could replace Viagra." That Stegnik succeeds at all is a minor miracle. Edward Lee can attest to that.

Edward Lee tried to milk a pig. This is what happened.

Chef Edward Lee (whom you may recognize from Iron Chef and Top Chef) describes pig's milk straight from the teat as "very vicious, warm [and] tart" (via Modern Farmer). On the whole, it's not far removed from cows milk before pasteurization. Milking a pig is a whole different animal. Pigs don't take kindly to human touch. On a mission to milk them, Lee understood this. "Get within 15 feet of a sow, she'll get up on her hind legs and get defensive ... and once she charges you, just forget it. She's already identified you as an enemy," he observed, adding, "get hit by a 250-pound sow, you're dead." 

Lee was determined to woo female pigs into giving up their milk. "It's like Charlotte's Web. I'm gonna be a spider," he explained. He set about smearing pigs' excrement on his Carhartt jacket and hung out in a pigsty until the pigs fell asleep. Then, according to Slate, he'd sneak up on the sleeping sows and milk them until they woke up and started panicking. Lee eventually succeeded in extracting a couple of jars' worth, from which he made delicious ricotta. 

For safety reasons, its unlikely Lee will be attempting pig ricotta cheese on a bigger scale. If you are, for some reason, moved to try milking your pigs, Lee recommends using a human breast pump. As he told Slate, "It fits perfectly."