'Human meat' burger made to make you feel uncomfortable

Swedish brand Oumph whipped up a batch of plant-based burgers that supposedly tasted like people.

Amanda Kooser
Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
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That extra ketchup on Oumph's plant-based "human meat" burger is just to wig you out.

Oumph video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

I just googled "what does human meat taste like" and it seriously turned my stomach. I don't even eat cows or pigs, but I figure I could have handled Swedish plant-based protein brand Oumph's limited-edition "human meat plant-based burger."

Oumph, which sells its wares in parts of Europe, Australia and South Africa, created the people-style burgers as a one-off Halloween stunt and offered them from a food truck in Stockholm. The burgers have been officially discontinued "because otherwise it would be creepy," the company announced on Sunday. 

Oumph is in the business of advocating for plant-based alternatives as an environmentally responsible way to eat that also reduces the suffering of animals. While the human-meat idea has shock value, it's meant to make consumers question the origin of their food, particularly items made from animals. Humans are animals, but cannibalism is taboo. Are we really so different from pigs and cows?

In a promo video, chef and Oumph co-founder Ankan Linden said he expected the project to evoke curiosity and a little disgust, and that making people feel uncomfortable was the idea. Oumph originally announced the burger idea with a semi-gruesome video playing off of horror tropes and involving various vegetables. 

When a company says it's developed a faux-meat burger that tastes like human flesh, that brings up a serious question: How does the maker know what human meat tastes like? An Instagram user asked, and Oumph replied with, "We have spent countless hours researching."  

"I know this is crazy," Linden said. "End of the day, no one's going to die. No one's going to jail." The chef hinted at secret spices in the recipe, but said he has never tasted real human meat.

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Smithsonian Magazine once investigated the taste-of-human question and concluded it would look like beef, but have more of a pork or veal-like flavor. Oumph makes a faux-pulled-pork product as well as faux-beef burgers, so we might see how this texture and flavor expertise could be used to head in a Soylent Green direction.

As a fan of plant-based "meats," I'm both fascinated and disturbed by Oumph's experiment, which is the exact reaction the brand was going for. I may have missed out on the taste experience, but the concept will haunt me the next time I pop a burger of any kind on the grill.