Numerous studies show that eating a single steak significantly increases the vulnerability to consuming the warm entrails of a freshly killed hitchhiker.

BETHESDA, MD—In an alarming new study that sheds light on the hidden dangers of the popular protein, the National Institutes of Health warned Thursday that beef may serve as a gateway meat that eventually leads those who eat it to try human flesh.

Behavioral scientists at the government agency reported that a comprehensive, nationwide survey of vegetarians, casual meat-eaters, and cannibals found that people who consume even a few grams of ground beef on a weekly basis show an increased chance of one day spiraling down a path of more extreme meats until they eventually wind up sinking their teeth into a man’s arm and devouring every last tendon and ligament.

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“Many people think eating beef is just harmless fun, but after a person tries prime rib, tenderloin, or even jerky, they are 10 times more likely to develop a taste for the flesh of their fellow man,” said NIH researcher Louis Brewer, noting that it takes an entire 38-ounce porterhouse for eaters to experience the same dopamine spike provided by one human toe. “Once an order of sliders fails to satisfy their craving, they move on to more serious meats. First it’s steak tartare, then it’s grilled primate, and, finally, when even that’s not enough, they find themselves cooking up a human kidney at 3 a.m.”

“The next thing they know, they’re crouched behind a dumpster sucking the bone marrow out of a UPS driver’s femur,” he continued. “By that point, it’s too late. They’re a full-blown cannibal.”

The NIH study concluded that consuming cow proteins changes the chemical makeup of carnivores’ brains and can lead to erratic behaviors, such as running out to the grocery store, buying six T-bone steaks, and eating them raw in the parking lot. Many heavy beef eaters told researchers their first encounter with human flesh came when they were hanging out with friends and someone passed around a severed finger, offering them a bite.

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Once hooked on the more potent human blend of muscle and fat, people reportedly go to ever-greater lengths to obtain it. Many have been known to break into morgues in the middle of the night to get their fix, often waking up with a pile of bones under their bed and lying about how it got there. According to the study, this soon isn’t enough to feed their habit, and within a month or two, they may resort to shoving a stranger into the trunk of their car, frantically driving home, and then ripping out the person’s jugular with their bare teeth.

“While the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the farming and sale of beef, it has rarely studied the links between this meat and cannibalism,” said Brewer, who admitted that for some people it was possible to hold down a steady job and maintain healthy relationships while occasionally partaking in chili or meatloaf. “What industry leaders fail to recognize is that for a certain percentage of the population, a hearty helping of beef brisket is a slippery slope toward slurping down a neighbor’s intestines like spaghetti.”

“What starts out as just eating a couple tacos with your buddies can ruin your life,” Brewer added.

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Many Americans who have suffered the devastating effects of cannibalism firsthand have argued that more should be done to curb beef-eating, especially among young people.

“I grew up around steak,” recovered cannibal Rob Fletcher told reporters, saying he realized he had hit rock bottom when police officers found him in a park on all fours, his face buried in the cracked-open ribcage of a freshly killed jogger. “When I was in high school, my parents didn’t care if my friends and I messed around with barbecue, as long as we kept it inside the house.”

“Then one night, I was out grilling burgers at this party when my buddy pulled out a child’s bicep, chopped it up with a machete, and told me to try a piece,” Fletcher continued. “I told myself I’d never do something like this, but I put a chunk of it in my mouth, and it was amazing. As soon as I tasted it, I knew I needed to eat more, and within six months, the only thing I cared about was stalking and butchering my next victim.”

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When asked if he thought beef should be outlawed, Fletcher answered with an emphatic yes.

“Let my life be a lesson,” Fletcher said. “Stay away from filet mignon, or you, too, may end up squating on the floor of an abandoned warehouse and biting into someone’s still-beating heart, surrounded by others just like you who can’t even move because they’re so glutted upon the fat and viscera of man.”