Chicken, pork and beef are all popular meat delicacies around the world – but there is one forbidden food that only a handful dare to try.
That’s human flesh, and while cannibalism is widely believed to be very wrong, some have let their curiosity get the better of them.
An influencer from Spain, 20-year-old Paula Gonu, recently admitted to cooking and eating part of her own knee in a spaghetti bolognese.
And she’s far from alone, with one of the most famous examples of cannibalism being the German man who killed and ate a voluntary victim in 2001.
But what does human flesh actually taste like? MailOnline reviews the accounts of those who have tried it.
Influencer Paula Gonu has shocked fans by revealing that after surgery she boiled her knee cartilage and ate spaghetti Bolognese (pictured eating at a restaurant before her surgery)
In the 1920s, American adventurer William Buehler Seabrook set out to give a detailed account of the societies that devour human flesh.
He even went so far as to taste it himself when he met the Guero people of West Africa, and wrote about his experiences in his book ‘Jungle Ways’, published in 1931.
The explorer noted that the raw meat resembled beef, but less red and with slightly yellow fat.
And once cooked, it turned gray and smelled like beef.
As for the taste, he wrote, “It was so much like good, fully developed veal that I think no one with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitivity could tell it from veal.”
Seabrook’s account is considered unreliable by many, as he later confessed that Guero tribesmen refused to let him participate in their tradition.
He claimed he made up for the disappointment by taking a piece of meat from the body of a dead hospital patient in France and cooking it on a spit.
But experts consider his description the most useful, as most commentaries on cannibalism come from the criminally insane and are often contradictory.
In the 1920s, American adventurer William Buehler Seabrook (left) set out to provide a detailed account of human flesh-devouring societies. He even went so far as to taste it himself when he encountered the Guero people of West Africa, writing about his experiences in his book ‘Jungle Ways’ (right), published in 1931
The survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash (pictured) were forced to eat their fellow passengers to survive – but claim in their accounts that the frozen meat was tasteless
HOW MANY CALORIES IS IN A HUMAN?
Skin: 10,280 calories
Bones: 25,330 calories
Skeletal Muscle: 32,370 calories
Brain, spinal cord and nerves: 2,706 calories
Heart: 650 calories
Spleen: 130 calories
Body fat: 49,940 calories
Liver: 2,570 calories
Lungs: 1,956 calories
Kidneys: 376 calories
Read more here
Meiwes insisted human flesh tastes like pork “but a little more bitter, stronger,” while Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa described it as “tender and soft” like tuna.
Sagawa, who killed a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt in 1981, said it “melted in (his) mouth like raw tuna in a sushi restaurant.”
The survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash were forced to eat their fellow passengers to survive, but claim in their accounts that the frozen meat was tasteless.
Survivor Nando Parrado recalled, “When I ate my first piece, it had no taste. I forced myself to swallow – without guilt. I ate to live.’
Last year, Russian killer Vladimir Nikolayevich Nikolayev spoke about how he first ate human flesh in 1997.
He argued with a man who stood at the door of his building, beat and killed him, then dismembered his body.
Only after taking the man’s head and limbs did he realize that nothing could stop his curiosity to eat this man.
“Suddenly something caught my eye and I thought I’d try it,” Nikolayev told National Geographic.
“I cut off a piece of meat from his thigh and cooked it.”
He said he “didn’t like” the taste of it raw, so he ended up baking it.
Nikolayev was also accused of selling about 5 kg of human flesh in an open market, claiming it was kangaroo meat.
He was eventually caught after a woman noticed the unusual taste and took it to a doctor for examination, where it was discovered that it contained human blood.
In 2006, researchers at NEC System Technologies and Mie University developed a robot that can identify wine by its taste (photo). But when reporters started putting their hands in the bot’s jaws, it was determined they were bacon and prosciutto
Last year, Russian killer Vladimir Nikolayevich Nikolayev (pictured) spoke about how he first ate human flesh in 1997
Due to the taboo nature of the act, few legitimate scientific studies have examined the true taste of cooked human flesh.
Human meat is rich in the highly pigmented protein myoglobin, which means it meets the general definition of “red meat,” such as beef.
In 2006, researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University developed a robot that can identify wine by its taste – an ‘electro-mechanical sommelier’.
But when reporters started putting their hands in the bot’s jaws, they were determined to be bacon and prosciutto — giving legs a pork-like flavor.
And in 2014, BBC science journalist Greg Foot had a piece of muscle removed from his calf to investigate what it would taste like.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
While he didn’t eat it, the biopsy was processed in the lab to get an idea of its texture, before cooking it and analyzing the resulting aromas.
He found that the muscle contains fibers similar to those found in both chicken breast and some cuts of beef.
About the smell of the cooked meat, Foot says, “It actually smells pretty good. It’s really meaty…much richer than pork or chicken.”
He added that it “looked similar to a beef and beer stew.”
In the UK and US there are no specific laws against cannibalism.
However, the acts that would see a person go to a place where they can eat someone are.
These included murder, for which Meiwes was convicted, the theft of human tissue, and the prevention of a lawful burial.
Despite this, and conflicting accounts about the taste, some experts say cannibalism could be a solution to climate change.
In 2019, Swedish scientist Professor Magnus Soderlund suggested that dead bodies would be more sustainable than the meat and dairy industry – or even eating insects – if food sources become scarce in the future.
He also claimed that “conversations” about cannibalism taboos can change over time and that people can be “tricked” into “making the right decisions,” reports the Epoch Times.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF EATING HUMAN MEAT?
Humans could practice cannibalism for as long as 100,000 years.
Human flesh contains fewer calories than the flesh of large prehistoric animals, including woolly rhinoceroses, red deer and mammoths, researchers have found.
Scientists have previously suggested that early humans became cannibals to get a much-needed protein boost when food was scarce.
But now they believe our early ancestors may have feasted on human flesh as part of a cultural or social ritual.
Anecdotal accounts suggest we taste between pork and veal.
However, eating human flesh carries a range of potential health complications, including contracting blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis or Ebola, writes Medical daily.
Our meat contains prions, which are versions of normal proteins that have lost their function and become infectious.
These can transform healthy proteins and set off a chain reaction of disease.
In particular, if these proteins end up in the brain, they eventually cause death.
Unlike bacteria and fungi, these prions are not eradicated by heat.
“They can be present in any nervous tissue, including our organs and muscles. However, they are most abundant in the brain and spinal nerve tissues,” researchers wrote in the publication.
“Eating human flesh isn’t always bad for us, especially if it doesn’t contain prions, but that carries an exceptionally high risk that it’s not worth sinking your teeth into.”