Soylent brown – “Shit burgers”

Update: According to a good work-up, there’s a very high probability this video is a hoax that just recently went viral. I blame the stout for my lack of reasonable doubt. Indeed even Yahoo news and Fox news have fallen for it. Anyway, I’ll leave this post here because the idea of lab-grown meat  made from waste products is an interesting idea that has scientific merit. (Cheers to Bobster’s house)

Sorry again for the lack of activity on the blog. I am going pretty well on my thesis, thanks for asking.

Anyway, I was drinking with a couple of friends of mine who are doing their PhDs in environmental health and bioremediation the other night. Long story short, I wake up with this on my hand:

At least it wasn't a dick and balls. Picture taken by Thomas Tu

After some greasy food and coffee, I summoned enough courage to look up “shit burgers” on Google. Then it came back to me, we had been talking about a nutty bit of science where a Japanese team had created faux meat from sewage. While I’m not sure that it isn’t a hoax, here’s a video:

So apparently, this guy got contacted by the sewage people saying they’ve got too much sludge around. The scientist extracts the protein out of the sludge (which is mostly held up in bacteria), puts it in an “exploder” (?) and then you have insta-steak.

Now, while we have previously touched on inserting other people’s poop into you as treatment, I do admit that this seems pretty gross. But if you think about it, the atoms of everything you’ve ever eaten has probably passed through several hundred colons before yours. This is simply a shortcut through the circle of life.

I am a bit worried about making the food completely safe though. It’s true that sewage treatment kills pathogenic bacteria and viruses as part of the processing. The treatment can kill more than 99% of the infectious viruses in the water system. But if you’re pooping out 1010 infectious particles per gram of faeces, there are still going to be plenty of viruses left to infect you. Indeed the literature is full of studies showing viruses do get past sewage-treatment plants and out into the wild (see references). I haven’t found any literature about this team’s steak-making technology to judge whether it’s going to kill all the viruses either (little help, blogosphere?).

Nevertheless, I think I’m starting to feel queasy again and I’m not sure that’s entirely the hangover’s fault. Enjoy your weekend.



He, X., Cheng, L., Li, W., Xie, X., Ma, M., & Wang, Z. (2008). Detection and distribution of rotavirus in municipal sewage treatment plants (STPs) and surface water in Beijing Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A, 43 (4), 424-429 DOI: 10.1080/10934520701795731
Fong, T., Phanikumar, M., Xagoraraki, I., & Rose, J. (2009). Quantitative Detection of Human Adenoviruses in Wastewater and Combined Sewer Overflows Influencing a Michigan River Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76 (3), 715-723 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01316-09



Filed under Thomas' Corner

5 responses to “Soylent brown – “Shit burgers”

  1. James Mk II

    Maybe the ‘exploder’ is some magical machine that kills the remaining 1%?

    Also, making shit into food, fair enough, if you’re into that kind of thing. But only getting the price down to the same as proper food? Seriously, apart from winning drunken wagers, where’s the incentive?

  2. Pingback: Sunday Dinner: Not So Pretty. « Bobster’s House

  3. Michael Taylor

    Hoax!? Aww man! I want my shitburger, and I’m not waiting around for so called “science” to make it happen.

    Time to take matters into my own hands.

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