Death Row Nutrition: Curious Conclusions to Last Meals
Kevin M. Kniffin
Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
August 26, 2012
Appetite, 2012, vol. 59, pp. 837-843
The growing macabre fascination with “last meals” offers a window into one’s true consumption desires when one’s value of the future is discounted close to zero. But in contrast to popular anecdotes and individual case studies, we created an empirical catalogue of actual last meals – the final food requests of 247 individuals executed in the United States during a recent five-year period. Our content analyses reveal three key findings: 1) The average last meal is calorically rich (2,756 calories) and proportionally averages 2.5 times the daily recommended servings of protein and fat, 2) the most frequent requests are also calorie dense: meat (83.9%), fried food (67.9%), desserts (66.3%), and soft drinks (60.0%), and 3) 39.9% requested branded foods or beverages. These findings are respectfully consistent with a model of environmentally contingent temporal discounting, and they are consistent with studies of how food is used to mediate feelings of stress and distress. Given that some people who are warned about the ill effects of obesity might counterintuitively engage in unhealthy overconsumption, the findings also suggest further study relating to the artificial use of mortality salience in campaigns against obesity.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: brand names, comfort food, last meals, mortality salience, obesity, death row, execution, death penalty, health discounting, behavioral economics
JEL Classification: I12, D90
Date posted: August 30, 2012 ; Last revised: January 20, 2014
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