Gregg Wallace, when not evaluating a jus on MasterChef—I love a bit of good,” he once told a contestant—can be found poking his nose around the backend of some factory or another, overly marveling at production lines and shouting “WOW!” at bemused workers, in one of the numerous consumer documentaries that pepper our television screens.
It would be understandable if you skipped over Gregg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat on last night’s schedule, as these types of programs are typically uninteresting.
But this was no ordinary warehouse floor stroll. In this 30-minute documentary, Wallace was granted exclusive access to the headquarters of Good Harvest, a company whose “miracle meat—synthetic steaks produced from human cells—has allegedly revolutionized the food industry. That’s correct: human flesh.
Wallace wasn’t as horrified by the concept as you might expect, his trademark cheesy grin fully on display as he learned how the meat is created: after a sample of the flesh is taken from a human volunteer, it is placed in a sort of tank, and within a few hours, the tiny piece of flesh has grown into a large slab of ready-to-eat meat. It was an intriguing process, but Wallace did not linger too long on the science behind it (for good reason).
At this juncture, I had begun to develop suspicions. If a company was effectively selling human meat in supermarkets, as we were informed, wouldn’t I have heard about it? Surely, such an innovation would be contentious enough to generate headlines. Actually, absolutely.
Good Harvest is not a legitimate enterprise and synthetic human meat is not sold at your local supermarket. Gregg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat was an interpretation of the cost-of-living crisis that drew inspiration from Black Mirror.
In this hypothetical scenario, Good Harvest compensates its meat donors for their pound of flesh. It was presented to Wallace, who was in on the prank and giving it his all, as a solution to the rising cost of living, which he accepted as a positive development.
Wallace only expressed concern when the company’s chief executive introduced their new product line, a more tender, premium steak made from cells extracted from children under the age of seven. But a visit to the children’s ward eased his concerns, as the children were persuaded they were “helping granny.”
The general concept of Gregg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat was intriguing and would make a great feature-length film or even a serialized drama. Unfortunately, the execution undermined the concept with poor acting and lackluster production (the Good Harvest logo appeared to have been created by a group of Apprentice contestants who were running out of time). Wallace at least carried his weight; among the generally poor performances, he stood out with a surprisingly plausible performance.
After recognizing that the film’s subject was fabricated, I spent the remaining 25 minutes anticipating a major reveal. But never arrived.
“It’s a modest proposal,” he says, likely alluding to Jonathan Swift, “but it might be the only attempt we’ve seen to take the Great British cost-of-living crisis seriously.”
Wallace left the Good Harvest complex without so much as a hint that, no, there is no meat company paying people for their flesh, and no, it is highly unlikely that we will all be compelled to eat each other.
However, not all viewers will have realized this, so omitting this information felt negligent. It would have been beneficial to devote more time to explanations rather than “taste tests” with celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr.
Gregg Wallace: The British Miracle Meat might have been a compelling film with a little more time and consideration. The sentiment behind it was significant: that the cost-of-living crisis is life-threatening for millions of people and will force them—and companies hoping to profit from their distress—to act in bizarre ways.
However, this message was not conveyed effectively, and the outcome was somewhat underdeveloped. Perhaps dystopia should be left to Charlie Brooker.