From Fear Factor’s donkey semen to Bear Grylls’s raw goat testicles, the nastiest things consumed on TV.
Though twins and Fear Factor contestants Brynne and Claire Odioso are now possibly the only two people on the planet who have downed mugs of donkey semen, the deplorable act in question never hit the airwaves. NBC decided that having two young women consume mugs of urine and semen, both of which had been left out in the sun for hours, was just a tad too much for the average American’s sensibilities. Not to be denied their well-deserved glory, however, the twins took to a different set of airwaves and called in to Tampa radio’s The Cowhead Show to describe the process of guzzling the filth. “It smells,” Brynne said. “It’s so bitter. It’s the sickest thing you can imagine. And it has a little hint of hay.” She explained that she and her sister had 15 minutes to down the beverages, and if they vomited, they would have to start over. “What I ended up doing was vomiting in my glass, and just drank that. The cameramen were vomiting,” she said. We’re not sure which is more disgusting: getting the girls to drink the semen or what it took to extract said semen in the first place.
Although eating maggots can, according to The F Word’s Gordon Ramsay, in extreme cases, result in the critters tearing “holes in the intestine, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and bleeding,” the maggots found in casu marzu, a Sardinian cheese, are too small to cause any damage. Instead, the baby flies simply ferment the cheese, break down its fats, and cause it to become extremely soft. Not that the process of creating the cheese is any less cringe-inducing. The sheep-milk cheese is left out for two to three months, inviting flies to come and lay thousands of eggs. The maggots, once hatched, eat the rotting cheese and pass it through their digestive system, giving the cheese its “unique, legendary flavor and texture.” As bizarre as it sounds, the cheese is apparently perfectly normal to some Sardinians—Ramsay sits down at the end of the clip to eat the maggot-infested cheese with a nice Italian family.
Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations fame has made it to some of the remotest corners of the world in the name of sampling exotic life and cuisine. During his trip to Namibia, though, the menu takes a definite turn for the gross. A hunt with the locals yields a meaty wart hog—which seems promising until all the good parts are suddenly hung up on a stick, to be saved for later, and the first thing tossed Bourdain’s way happens to be the animal’s rectum, apparently “long prized for its fat content.” Don’t worry: the wart hog’s last meal (or what was left of it) is hand-squeezed out of the “Hershey highway” before the body part enters anyone’s mouth.
Man vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls is the sort of man who earns a black belt in karate and legally changes his name to Bear and whose professional occupation is “adventurer.” That should spell out how tough he is. In case there’s still any doubt, however, there’s this clip of Grylls solving his thirst problem, Bear style. While in the wilderness of Kimberley in Western Australia, Bear realizes that he is getting low on water. “And the only thing I can do,” he declares, “is to drink my own pee.” He promptly urinates into a water bottle, assuring audiences that “it may seem disgusting, but your own urine is safe to drink.” Bear then gulps down the “warm,” “salty,” yellowy stuff and bounds off again into the wild, unfazed. Amazing.
Before he ever ingested a wart hog’s anus, Bourdain was sinking his teeth into other unsavory animal body parts. During No Reservations’ second season, Bourdain set out to hunt seal with a group of Inuits in Quebec. Addressing the inevitable masses who would object to watching him devour a cute, harmless seal raw, Bourdain declares, “This is nothing less than survival at stake here!” Back at home, the family and Bourdain partake of the seal “like a meat-filled piñata,” with the best part saved for Bourdain: the seal’s eye, to be “slit and sucked out like a fat Concord grape.”
For Grylls, who regularly stuffs insects into his face for the sake of “protein,” one little maggot might not seem like it merits a spot on the list of grossest things he’s ever consumed. At least it doesn’t until you see it burst into gooey “peanut butter”–y goodness. While in the forests of New Zealand, Grylls chops his way into a log of rotting wood, encounters the enormous larvae of New Zealand’s largest beetle, the huhu, and, without a moment’s hesitation, chows down with enough zeal to put Timon and Pumbaa to shame. At least, until the maggot’s flavor seems to transition from peanut butter to “snot,” at which point Grylls spits the stuff back out.
Two and a Half Cow Brains
Fear Factor has a history of shoving its contestants into tarantula-filled tanks, throwing them off buildings, and dunking them underwater for dangerously long minutes at a time—but as the contestants of one fateful episode in 2002 learned, the challenges at hand can also sometimes get plain weird. Like, eating-two-and-a-half-cow-brains weird. Host Joe Rogan gleefully watches the contestants gag and struggle through the bovine brains until one young man quits altogether. “Dude, it tastes so much worse than it looks,” the contestant spits out before stomping away. “You don’t even understand how sick that is.”
Raw Goat Testicles
It’s really a wonder that Grylls is still alive. If not from the extreme circumstances he regularly subjects himself to, then at least from the insane things he forces himself to digest. On another episode of Man vs. Wild, Grylls finds himself the guest of honor after the killing of a goat in the Sahara. And as it so happens, honored guests are offered the kill’s testicles, which are “thought to enhance fertility.” This particular chunk of fertility ends up inducing Grylls to dry heave for a few seconds—though, as usual, he bounces back almost immediately and heroically announces to his host, “OK, Mohammad. Sorry about that. Let’s carry on.”
Though no one on TV seems to have eaten regurgitated meat for money (yet), this Survivor challenge is the closest it’s come. Contestants are told to tear as much meat off a roasted pig as they can, using only their teeth. Sweat, spit, and dirt circulate freely while the survivors tear chunks off, pick them out from each other’s teeth, and dump them into a basket. The grand prize for the winning team? The meat they picked off, of course—slimy, prechewed, and everything.
Cow brain may have been extreme enough for the contestants of Fear Factor, but the adventurers of Finland’s Madventures take brain eating a step closer to humanity and ingest a monkey’s brain instead. While in the wilderness of the Amazon, host Riku Rantala takes the freshly killed body of a small monkey, shot down by an almost equally small boy, roasts it, and sets to work with a spoon. After a bit of gagging, Rantala gets philosophical. “I start to think about the connections between species and intelligence of nature. Should I turn into vegetarian, do you think?” he asks his companion. The meditation lasts less than two seconds, at which point Rantala digs in again to get the last pieces of brain out. PETA would not be happy.
'Fear Factor' Pizza
One of the most bloodcurdling food challenges ever to hit television, Fear Factor’s pizza challenge has probably prevented its contestants from ever looking at pizza the same way again. A Fear Factor pizza is made with a bile-based crust, drenched in cow’s-blood sauce, sprinkled with rotten cheese, and topped off with fish eyes and live worms. The fact that nobody dies on this episode is truly a testament to the abuse threshold of the human stomach.
Balut (Chicken Fetuses)
Whether or not balut qualifies as a gross dish depends on where you are from. In Asia, the raw chicken or duck fetus is considered something of a delicacy. To most Americans, however, it’s more like something of a travesty. The two unlucky Survivor: China contestants faced with a bowl of balut are decidedly of the latter mindset. Each is tasked with eating two fetuses (tiny beaks, feathers, and claws included), but only one can finish the challenge. It’s worth noting, however, that the winner of the challenge is the same guy who scarfs down bats for breakfast on a different episode of the show.