Here’s How Many Humans You Would Need to Hunt to Survive the Apocalypse
Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son. Photo via Wikipedia Commons


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Here’s How Many Humans You Would Need to Hunt to Survive the Apocalypse

A new study on the nutritional value of eating humans led us to “investigate.”

A few weeks ago a study confirmed exactly how many calories there are on a human frame, so naturally I had one question: how many people would I need to eat to survive the coming apocalypse?

In the study, published in Scientific Reports, University of Brighton archeologist James Cole, while studying Paleolithic cannibalism, took it upon himself to figure out the actual caloric value of the human body in an effort to counteract the claim that ancient humans ate each other for nutritional value. Cole found that humans have similar caloric value to creatures our size, but that compared to larger game, nutritionally we just don't pack the same punch. Using what he gleaned from that data, Cole concluded the effort of hunting humans wasn't worth it when compared to big game (like, say, mammoths) that one could hunt at the time, given that big game is easier to catch. He reasoned that, other than in times of famine and opportunism, bouts of cannibalism were most likely the result of social, cultural, or religious reasons.


In the modern era, cannibalism has fallen out of style due to obvious factors—but who knows when it could become trendy again (you read The Road, right)?

If the nutritional value and moral quandaries of eating man are shucked to the side, however, the question remains: how many of your fellow man or woman would you need to hunt and kill in order to sustain you and yours? Well, we can now figure this out with Cole's caloric evaluation of the human body.

Note: I'm going to use a hypothetical apocalypse for this article so I don't come off like a raving maniac who is pro eating other people for taste or something.

So, I'm going to need you to picture a scene where say, two unstable world leaders have doomed the world to nuclear winter and, somehow, this has caused all the non-human animals to die off or become inedible—also all canned food and the like went bad for, uh, reasons. Everyone is fair game now and, yes, that includes hunting, killing, and eating your nice but annoying neighbour, Tim.

Hello Tim, long time, no see. Photo via screenshot of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

According to Cole's calculations, if Tim weighs around 66 kg he has about 32,000 calories of muscle meat on his bones. And it's estimated that an average person needs around 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day to sustain their body weight. So, with that in mind, we can now figure out how long you can feast off Tim's corpse and thusly how many more Tims we would need to kill to keep our belly full. Isn't math fun, kids?


To start, we need to take in mind how many calories you're burning in the hunt. Obviously if Tim is wily and you have to chase him for miles upon miles you're not going to get the best bang for your Tim buck. Since you've survived this long in the apocalypse, I'm going to assume you're crafty and so are your hunting techniques.

So, you pull off a Tim Trap™—luring him out of his pad with a pile of smutty mags and then popping him off from a distance with a well placed crossbow shot—and bag yourself a Tim. Most likely you won't be able to squeeze out every single on of those 32,000 calories out of your freshly skinned Tim, which means that his meat will sustain you for almost two weeks. Cole also did the math to figure out what the caloric value a human teenager, toddler, and baby hold but that's just too dark to write about. Back to our man Tim, he may be able to help you out for a little longer if you pickle his organs and turn his meat into jerky to avoid spoilage so you can get the full value out of him.

I would eat Eddie Izzard's leg medium rare. Photo via Hannibal screenshot.

So, with all that in mind, if you were hunting for yourself you would need to take down around 26 of your fellow homo sapiens a year to survive. Since we're not all as sad and lonely as the sweet and supple Tim, and humans instinctively group together, we most likely are going to be hunting for a family or group which could easily multiply that number to great heights. For example, in his studies, Cole found that one adult male would give enough calories to a group of 25 humans for about half a day.

To complicate things further, a hunt wouldn't take a day or so, you would have to constantly be on the lookout for your crafty grub. Cole reasons that hunting humans would be, obviously, a lot difficult than hunting the average fauna. In his piece, he writes that, even in the Palaeolithic days, "the mental and physical effort to hunt a hominin would presumably be much greater than that required for small game given the hominins ability to fight, run and think their way out of the hunt and pursuit in a way that a saiga [antelope] (for example) simply could not."

Essentially, with this in mind, you would need to build your entire life around hunting humans in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. So, start formulating your plans and traps now, friends, because you never know what the post-apocalypse eating situation is going to look like, other than the vegans will be the first to go.

Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.