The Market In Breast Milk

Jon Nathanson assesses it:

Human milk isn’t exactly traded on the major mercantile exchanges. But as commodities go, it does look pricey. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an ounce of breast milk can cost upwards of $3.00 to $5.00. On a per-ounce basis, that’s about 10,900% more expensive than whole milk at the supermarket and 2,627% more expensive than baby formula.

We might expect this sort of price premium on the natural breast milk. After all, it can’t be pumped at scale. Nor is it readily fungible: consistency, quality, and purity depend on hundreds of factors involved in a mother’s diet and lifestyle (even at the individual level, lactation volume changes constantly). Keeping a large quantity of universally suitable milk available throughout the year is a no small feat. Since production and collection are erratic, demand is continuous, and shelf life is limited, the logistics can be extremely challenging.