Assume another world nearly identical to our own in technology. The only real difference between our world and this one is that that world is a cannibalistic one. There is no stigma around the consumption of it in this world, and the procurement of it is pretty regulated by human rights groups.

Assume that specialized health concerns from cannibalism, such as prion diseases, are not an issue, but the more general issues with eating other meats are present. (food poisoning, etc.)

Those who die, naturally or otherwise, are frequently sold to food processing companies by their families. The price of a dead body depends on the company purchasing it, along with the age and quality of meat, but for reference, a health 35 year old man sells for around $800. Naturally, this also creates a black market where unwilling "donors" find themselves being processed.

With all this in mind, what economic class would have more human flesh in their diets? And in addition, how might this change benefit (or harm) other economic classes.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Kirk, generally speaking if you ask a "The world is the same except X , what are the repercussions?" are way way too broad. If you can focus this on some aspect of culture, military, finance etc etc etc it could potentially be answerable. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Sep 7, 2016 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ So... Some humans are killed for food? How are they chosen? Race? Region? IQ? Is there no stigma about murder? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Sep 7, 2016 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ Assume another world nearly identical to our own in technology. The only real difference between our world and this one is that that world is a cannibalistic one. You might assume everything you like, same way as you did that one, no need to ask us about your assumptions, we just do not know them, it is up to you. My personal tip to get knowledge about why we do not have cannibalistic and how it is connected to what we have. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Sep 8, 2016 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ What is the punishment for creating an "unwilling" donor? Note that the typical award for a wrongful death is on the order of millions of dollars. Yet a corpse is only worth $800. So a civil judgment for a single wrongful death would wipe out the gain from thousands of wrongfully obtained corpses. That doesn't strike me as an advisable risk on any kind of scale. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Oct 2, 2016 at 23:58

3 Answers 3


The Poorest Would Benefit, but Only Marginally

Let's say a 35-year-old weighs 250lbs - a big guy. Let's assume that about 45% of that is muscle and it is all harvestable, netting 112.5lbs of food. At 800 dollars per 112.5lbs, the meat costs 7.11 dollars per pound. This does not even counting the markup incurred by processing, transporting, and selling the meat, which would probably quadruple the price given the cost-to-product ratio per carcass - so let's call it $28 dollars per pound. Even in this extraordinarily generous case that is an EXTREMELY expensive food source.

So the poor would benefit by having more spending money, and only the wealthy would consume human flesh due to the cost. Since there are no known benefits to eating human flesh, the wealthy would not receive any benefit from the act and would distribute more of their wealth in its acquisition. Unfortunately there would not be a huge global market for the meat due to its cost, so surprisingly little economic change would result.

As for why the poor would benefit more than, say, the middle class the answer is simple: 800 dollars means a lot more to a poor person than to someone in the middle class.

  • $\begingroup$ But you only get the money when a family member dies $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2016 at 0:55
  • $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear - Yes, but the "beneficiaries" of the system would have a strong tendency to be in the same economic class. Most likely they would be from the same household, and even if not (as may occur if an unmarried man/woman dies) their next of kin are statistically quite likely to be in the same class. Ultimately this is a money transfer from the wealthiest class to the lower and (unlikely, but possible) middle classes, which is a net benefit for that group. But with so little business ($28/lb meats are not in high demand) it's probably not a sustainable industry. $\endgroup$
    – GrinningX
    Oct 13, 2016 at 13:15

How available is it really? is it akin to a specialty item or delicacy? Generally speaking, animals that die of disease, or even natural causes, aren't considered fit for consumption. I imagine if humans had to opt-in to slaughter it could be very scarce.

My first impression is that human consumption would be stratified by class, a delicacy restricted only to the very wealthy. If cannibalism is an aspirational cultural quality in this sense, then it's predictable that there would be a lively black market of human meat, and cannibalism-motivated crime, to procure meat for the black market or personal consumption. The supply of human meat for the market would be well-regulated, but everything outside of its purview would be a major, major issue in this culture (think shark fin soup plus civil rights plus death penalty).


This is a curious question. I see two possible outcomes.

1) The consumption of human flesh becomes conspicuous consumption and a sign of social status. This would create the situation where flesh to "grown" to meet the high class specs. For example the finger of a homeless person would not be viewed as highly as eating the foot of Michael Jordan. It this were the case, the lower class may not see much economic benefit of selling their flesh. It may of course, have positive income-smoothing effects. For example, if my brother needs an expensive medical treatment, I can sell both of my legs. Even if I were not a desirable person to consume, I don't foresee the supply of human legs becoming flooded. This could ultimately protect the lower class from random income shocks. If consumption of human flesh were conspicuous, all classes would see some income benefits (where less notable people would have to sell more and more ridiculous body parts to match demand). Also, the market would likely lean towards 'fresh' body parts harvested from living people rather than from the dead.

2) Consumption of human flesh is seen as a less tasty alternative to consumption of other animals. Then the upper class would not eat many humans and the lower class becomes both the suppliers and consumers of human flesh. This would all but eliminate the supply of fresh, exotic body parts and the majority of supply would be in recently deceased individuals. Since most people are not surrounded by constantly dying relatives (and a single family member rarely will have a singular claim on flesh of another), the benefit of selling flesh would be relatively low.


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