Cannibalism, or the act of eating flesh of one’s own species, was quite commonplace among ancient tribes. Even today, we come across news stories where people were found indulging in the act of eating human flesh. While just the thought of cannibalism among humans seems repulsive, it merits a scientific investigation to understand why some people indulge in such acts.
Cannibalism may also come naturally in certain extreme situations. In the Andes flight disaster of 1972, survivors of the plane crash ate flesh of the dead to keep themselves alive. All these cases warrant an investigation into how human flesh tastes like.
Placentophagy – This is common among mammals, involving postpartum ingestion of the placenta. Several mammals do it in order to boost nutrition levels after giving birth. Placentophagy is not openly practiced by any community, although there have been people who have come forward and shared their experience. In the human context, the placenta can be eaten after frying. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a British celebrity chef, had cooked and eaten human placenta in one of his shows. According to him, the taste was quite like animal lever.
There are other people who have anonymously reported that eating their own placenta provided benefits such as improved lactation, increased energy levels and improved mood. In Chinese traditional medicine, dried human placenta is used in the treatment of impotency, infertility, wasting disease, etc. However, there is no scientific evidence to back such claims.
Cannibalistic serial killers – There have been multiple cases of cannibalistic serial killers. One of them was Pole Karl Denke from Germany, who was a respected citizen of his community. However, no one knew that he was leading a double life, wherein he used to kill people and eat their flesh. He also pickled human flesh in jars and sold them at Wrocław market as pork pickle. As people reported no issues with pickled human flesh sold as pork pickle, it indicates that human flesh may taste like pork.
A similar experience was reported by cannibal Armin Meiwes, who was convicted of eating around 20kg of flesh of his victim. In an interview, Armin Meiwes said that human flesh tastes quite good and feels like pork. Only difference is that it’s a bit more bitter and stronger than pork.
Cooked human flesh – As part of his journalistic pursuits, William Buehler Seabrook of New York Times had travelled extensively across West Africa. He came across various tribes that used to indulge in cannibalism. To satisfy his growing curiosity, William worked on an experimental project with the University of Paris. He cooked and ate meat derived from the dead body of a healthy man killed in an accident. According to him, the taste was similar to that of a fully developed veal.
Andes flight disaster survivors – According to the Andes flight disaster survivors, the human flesh they ate did not have any particular taste. Their experience was a bit different, as what they ate was frozen flesh. The environment was a bone-chilling −30 °C (−22 °F), which would have prevented them from getting any taste from the frozen human flesh.
AI Robots – Last but not least, even robots with artificial intelligence have been tasked with evaluating the taste of human flesh. These robots can easily identify various types of meats, cheese, wines, etc. When some human hands were put forward, they were recognized as bacon or prosciutto.
All these results show that how human flesh tastes like will vary from individual to individual. However, there’s certainly a greater percentage of people reporting the taste of human flesh to be similar to that of pork.