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[And] as for the other men, who worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting, – sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!—Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
Life can be hard for the small businessperson. But fiction likes to make things easier for small time purveyors of secondary meat products. It seems that workers in the early industrial food industry must have been very prone to getting caught in the machinery and ending up in the final product.
The one surefire way to boost sales and turn your products into the talk of the market is by adding a certain Mystery Meat. No, not the "love and care" that the packaging promises, but the arms and legs of wage slaves. The adding of long pork, that other other white meat, the most dangerous game that isn't too gamey, raised free-range on a nearby farm, instantly transforms all of your meat pies and sausages and whatnot into pure delights.
This subtrope of I'm a Humanitarian seem to get off on that same impulse as the reveals of Powered by a Forsaken Child machinery or the connotations of Evil Tastes Good: deep down we suspect that really all the wrong and taboo things are best for us.
A variation is the Urban Legend that street vendors use stray animals to make meat products such as kabobs. It may be Truth in Television in some parts of the world. Serial Killers such as Fritz Haarmann, Karl Denke and Robert Pickton have also been accused of doing this with the meat of their victims.
- In Hack Slash, Delilah Hack mixed the remains of the children she butchered into the food she served in her job as a school lunch lady.
- In The Spider comic "Blazing Lead for the Walking Dead" in Titanic Tales, a wealthy woman runs a restuarant that serves human flesh to New York's upper crust (without them knowing what it is).
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969, the main characters find some of Mrs Lovett's pies in the freezer. They tuck into them without a second thought, and then start debating the rumours in a detached sort of way.
- In a Spider-Man story where Maggia bosses are turning up dead, we're told the cops who were first on the scene at a butcher's won't talk about what they found ... or why they've stopped eating meat. (It turns out that they all faked their deaths ... but this guy used cloning to do so, so there was human tissue involved.)
- In Motel Hell, Farmer Vincent makes the best smoked meat in the Deep South. It is because he makes them from people.
- In Parents, a young boy in a Stepford Smiler Fifties discovers that his folks have been serving human flesh as "leftovers" all along.
- The Hong Kong film The Untold Story is Very Loosely Based on a True Story in which an employee in a Macau restaurant kills the proprietor and his family, and cooks them as pork buns.
- The movie Eating Raoul is about an upscale couple who earn money for their future restaurant by killing and cooking people.
- In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the eldest brother of Leatherface's twisted family is known around the county for his amazing chili.
T'aint no secret, it's the meat!
- Done in Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer.
- Ice Cream Man features an ice cream man who mixes people into his delicious frozen treats.
- Before he became a killer snowman, Jack Frost baked people into pies.
- Consuming Passions starts with accidental cannibalism (a man dies by falling in a vat of chocolate), but the "new recipe" of course turns out immensely popular.
- One of the heroes in Monster Man finds out to his horror that he is eating chili made of people.
- In Microwave Massacre, the main character is a cannibalistic serial killer who at one point shares some of his homemade lunches with his oblivious construction worker buddies. They love them.
- The "gin sung" the main characters are served throughout Shriek of the Mutilated turns out to be human flesh.
- The short story "Pig" by Roald Dahl in the collection Kiss Kiss.
- There's a story somewhere in the Historia Regum Britanniae of a King wounded and stranded on a deserted island. In desparation, his loyal servant cuts a slice out of his own leg and serves it to the King as pork, and the King finds it to be the most delicious meat he's ever tasted, and totally revitalizing to boot.
- The Stanley Ellin story "Specialty of the House" deals with an exclusive restaurant which offers kitchen tours to its (fattened) premier customers, who are never seen again. It's implied but not stated outright that they become food, and that at least some of the meals they formerly enjoyed were also human flesh. Kind of an unusual example in that there is no indication of this trope being in play because of financial difficulties- it's more to the effect that humans taste good.
- The novella about the restaurant serving Admirstan Mutton heavily implies this. Some patrons might be in the know -- after all, there's always some poor soul who doesn't get the rare treat makes a brief return to the menu. Really, the luck to leave for a vacation just days before they would've finally known the taste of the famed Admirstan Mutton!
- Run into a restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Water Margin, odds are it serves the guests by, well, serving the guests. Two of the 108 heroes run such a chop shop.
- In Maskerade, cheesemaker Mr Bucket recalls the day two of his workers were having an argument, and one of them "slipped" and fell in the vat, concluding "That was some of the finest Farmhouse Nutty we ever made."
- The Criminal Minds episode "Lucky" had a cannibal who owned a little BBQ restaurant. You can probably guess how things proceeded.
- Tales from the Crypt episode "What's Cookin'". The owners of a failing restaurant find success when they begin to use meat supplied by a drifter.
- Top Secret adventure "Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle. Anyone who dies in "Sanctuary" (a local hospital) is ground up and sold to the public.
- Although this may appear to be the specialty of the sinister butcher in The League of Gentlemen, Word of God is the "special stuff" is not human flesh. It's much, much worse.
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents adapted the abovementioned "Specialty of the House" as an episode.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Doublemeat Palace" Buffy suspects that the local fast food outlet's High Turnover Rate is due to it using its employees as the Secret Ingredient in their burgers. Subverted when it turns out a demon is eating the workers because they taste good, and the secret ingredient is that the burgers don't have any meat in them, only a soy product with beef flavouring.
- The druggist's mother-in-law in Tom Lehrer's "My Hometown" ends up as ice cream topping.
- In the folk song "Johnny Verbeck/Trebek/Quebec", the eponymous character, a butcher, makes a sausage machine and feeds the neighborhood animals into it until it breaks, and he climbs inside for repairs. His sleepwalking wife pulls the crank and "Johnny Trebek was meat".
- This is the second guaranteed fixture of Sweeney Todd tellings after "throat slashing barber" - the bodies are then used to make Mrs. Lovett's meat pies, initially just for body disposal but often it then turns out that this just increases the flavour.
- In the original Fallout, the player can discover that a kabob vendor is being supplied with Mystery Meat courtesy the local Back-Alley Doctor.
- In Homestuck Gamzee shows up out of the blue in Act 6 to sell "potions" to Jane that suspiciously have the same (blood) color and promised properties as each of the dead trolls whose bodies he had hidden away. You can try to turn him down, But Thou Must! buy them from him either way.
- In the Alternate History For All Time, the French Government (led by Jean-Bedel Bokassa) begins to supply "Equatorial Pork" to its starving subjects.
- The Simpsons:
- A "Treehouse of Horror" episode had the school cook butchering random children and feeding the students with the cooked meat.
Lisa: Bart, does it strike you as odd that Uter disappeared and suddenly they're serving us this mysterious food called "Uterbraten"?
Principal Skinner: Oh relax kids, I've got a gut feeling Uter's around here somewhere hahahahaha, after all isn't there a little Uter in all of us? hahahaha... hahaha, in fact, you might even say we just ate Uter, and he's in our stomachs... right now! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!... Wait, scratch that one.
- Another "Treehouse of Terror" episode had a segment sending up Sweeney Todd. Homer falls in Moe's microbrewery still and the beer gets infused with his blood. Moe serves the pink brew to Marge, which reminds her of her husband for some reason. Moe keeps the truth secret in an attempt to get Marge all to himself.
- In the first episode of Bob's Burgers, Bob has to fight allegations that his burgers have human meat.
- Animaniacs has a variant in the Rita & Runt parody of Les Misérables, where Rita's owner's meat pies are not selling, so he starts secretly using the cats he shelters for the pies. Since the protagonist is a cat, it has the same effect.