‘Human meat’ is not being sold in the UK

12 September 2023
What was claimed

A new programme reveals how engineered “human meat” is being produced and sold in the UK.

Our verdict

The clips shown on social media are from a real satirical documentary designed to highlight the cost of living crisis.

Posts claiming that “human meat” is being grown in the UK and sold in supermarkets have been shared thousands of times on social media

The videos, which feature clips edited together and include commentary from creators based outside of the UK, all show a programme hosted by television presenter Gregg Wallace in which he appears to visit a factory producing “six tonnes” of “human meat” each day. 

It is claimed in the footage that the man-made protein is produced using “human cells” by a company called Good Harvest, and is being sold in supermarkets as a cheaper alternative to real animal products. 

The clips appear to have been shared as though they are real, with social media creators expressing their disbelief at the contents of the programme. In one video another person on camera commenting on the footage says: “If someone told you that they are processing and eating human meat in substitute for animal meat in the UK you wouldn’t believe it. 

“I didn't believe it either, until I come across this video which shows how they are processing human meat.” 

Many of the videos also have comments which appear to show the content of the video has been taken literally. 

But while the clips shown in the social media posts are from a real programme, broadcast by Channel 4 in July, no such “human meat” processing plant exists in the UK. The programme Miracle Meat is actually a satirical documentary, designed to provoke a conversation about the rising cost of living in the UK. 

The show’s director Tom Kingsley told BBC Culture that it was designed to "satirise the way that the misery of the cost of living has become normalised.”

He added: "Some thought it was believable. And their reaction proves our point: if people could believe it was real then it shows how bleak things really have become."

The programme was inspired by Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satirical essay A Modest Proposal, in which he suggests that poor people in Ireland should sell their children as food—referenced twice in the episode itself. 

At the end of the programme Mr Wallace says “it’s a modest proposal, but it might be the only attempt we’ve seen to take the Great British cost of living crisis seriously”, and the first credit says: “With thanks to Jonathan Swift.” 

While always intended as satire, the programme did cause confusion in the UK when it first aired with many different news organisations reporting on the strong reaction to the show.

People mistaking satirical content for fact is something we see often on social media, especially when the original content has been taken out of context. We have previously written about joke editorial letters, political sketches and fake announcements of new technology. 

Image courtesy of Usman Yousaf

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