When it comes to societal taboos, there are few things that feel more wrong than the thought of eating human flesh. Even the most avid meat lover would probably - hopefully - shudder at the thought of biting down into a chunk of people, and for good reason (more on that later). But it seems curiosity got the better of journalist Greg Foot in this episode of Brit Lab, where he decides to take a biopsy of his own thigh muscle so he can scientifically determine what man flesh tastes like.
To be clear, Foot doesn't actually eat his own thigh - it turns out that's illegal in the UK - but he does have its fibres scientifically analysed, as well as its aromas, so that he can reconstruct a legal version of what it would taste like.
If that news disappoints you, firstly, gross. And secondly, don't worry, the whole video is still an exercise in cringe, and you definitely don't get to the end of it feeling like you need to see or think any more about human meat. This is probably a good time to tell you to avoid watching this while you're having lunch.
But let's get back to the science for a second, because how exactly does one go about chemically reconstructing human flesh? The first step is a biopsy of the quadriceps muscle in Foot's thigh under local anaesthetic, which still looks incredibly painful.
During the procedure, three little chunks of his meat are extracted and analysed under the microscope. Interestingly, our flesh has about half the same type of muscle fibre that's found in chicken breast, but also contains similar fibres to beef, which makes us pretty unique in the animal world.
Then, because Foot can't just outright eat his own thigh without getting arrested, he heads to a lab in Nottingham, where his muscle is cooked (me watching = "oh hell no!") and then has its aroma chemically analysed. Apparently, that's the first time anyone's analysed the aromas of cooked human flesh, which is a relief.
The aroma analysis is importan,t because 80 percent of flavour is determined by smell, so once you nail that in addition to getting the right texture, you're most of the way there.
So what does human meat smell like? After an initial gag reaction from Foot, he gets himself under control and eventually determines that it's something like… beef and ale stew.
Once he has the results of the chemical analysis, it's as simple as cooking the most chemically similar combination of meats he can find to replicate human flesh, such as chicken breast, steak, and pork. We'll let you watch the video above to see how that goes down. All we'll add is that we sort of wish he'd created a specially blended lab-grown burger for the experiment, as it would be even more scientifically accurate.
And in case you were wondering why you feel so unwell watching this all play out, don't worry - our disgust reaction is what helped our ancestors survive long enough to breed and pass on their genes. That's because most of the things that disgust us can also make us really sick, like human faeces or pus.
Similarly, eating human flesh isn't that great for us either. Regular disease transmission aside, it's been linked to an incurable and fatal disease called kuru found in cannibal tribes in Papua New Guinea. Kuru is thought to be spread by prions, and is related to the human form of mad cow's disease.
So, all thing's considered, it's a pretty good thing that most of us are repulsed by the idea, and this video certainly doesn't help get rid of the stigma. Let's all hope it never comes to this… bon appétit!