Problem: our planet has already faced a few food crises and another one seems to be just around the corner. Extremely unsavory possible solution: eat artificial meat products made from our own excrement. That is the suggestion that Mitsuyuki Ikeda from the Environmental Assessment Center, Okayama, Japan… if he does indeed exist.
The story sounds compelling doesn’t it? It has done the rounds on the Internet before but today it landed with News Corporation and will presumably go well and truly viral from there. But is it true?
Apparently doctor Ikeda found himself presented with a problem by Tokyo Sewage: Tokyo was drowning in its own crap and they wanted him to devise a way for them to dig themselves out of it. Ikeda decided that eating would be more effective than digging and went about formulating a means by which the protein could be extracted from sewage sludge, treated, processed and turned into a meat substitute.
Ikeda’s formulation involved soy, steak sauce and a whole lot of poop. The problem is that the reclaimed turds cost 15-20 times as much as actual meat… so for now, turd burgers are off the menu.
If it sounds too amazing to be true, that is because it probably is – a detailed search brings up hits from as far back as 1998 and Mitsuyuki Ikeda does not appear to work for the Environmental Assessment Center, Okayama, Japan. Granted, he could have worked there a long time ago so let us proceed to my next issue with the story, the sources. The chain of custody as far as this story goes is something like this: there was a post on Live Leak, which got added to YouTube, which got linked to by Inhabitat, which got re-reported by Digital Trends – with not a single academic publication in the mix to back up the research.
The biggest problem is the video itself. Having lived in Japan for a third of my life I think that I have developed a feel for some of the subtleties of Japanese comedy. This smacks of being an Onion-esque skit for one variety show or another – If Ikeda was serious about the research, I don’t think that he would be calling it unko ba-ga (shit burger). The finger pointer that he uses has been available over the years at 100-yen shops across the country. Over the years such pointers have been used in numerous comedy skits to add a level of mock seriousness. Sure, an individual researcher might have a sense of humor, but in Japan scientific organizations do not – and that is what has the We Interrupt BS meter reading off the charts for this story.
To cut a long story short – this is almost certainly fake that shouldn’t have slipped past the fact checkers at multi-billion dollar media conglomerates like News Corp, yada, yada, yada… but it was also highly amusing.