Morbid Facts About Last Meals On Death Row

Most humans have a morbid curiosity about death. What does it feel like? When will it happen? Will I have a chance to devour my favorite cookies n' cream milkshake before I go? Is a death-row meal simply the nice thing to do for a person about to die, or is it a waste of time and money for a convicted felon, about to receive their just deserts?

The food these killers want to eat is as varied as their crimes. Sometimes what people eat for their last meals is insanely elaborate, requiring multiple courses, and other times they simply want a single olive. There's a lot you can learn about a person from their eating habits – and presumably even more about what they choose as the last thing they'll ever taste.


  • The First ‘Last Meal’ Recorded Happened In 22 BCE

    For some reason, humanity has, throughout history, frequently decided that no matter what horrible crime you've committed, if the government is going to kill you, it should at least give you a decent meal. The first known recording of this practice was in the Sumerian Code of Ur-Nammu back in 22nd century BCE. Roman gladiators were treated to a large feast before they were inevitably slaughtered in the arena, and the Aztecs used to eat the people they sacrificed.

    So that's kind of the opposite. No matter how you look at it, death and food have been paired across almost every culture for most of human history.

  • Criminals Aren't Always Going To Get What They Want

    Many of us have this idea in our heads that death row inmates can get pretty much whatever they want for their last meal. After all, even the most lavish meals probably couldn't cost more than a couple hundred bucks, and it's not like anybody will ever need to spend money on this person again. But actually, what criminals are allowed to have for their last meal varies pretty wildly from state to state, and can significantly affect what they ultimately eat.

    Inmates are allowed to request whatever they want, but it's up to the state to decide what they'll actually get. For example, in Florida, the meal has to be locally purchased and can't exceed $40. In Virginia, inmates are pretty much limited to whatever is on the monthly cycle. If you want hotdogs, you'd better hope it's the first of the month. Most prison chefs do their best, but they can be heavily restricted by what they're allowed to do and what they might have on hand.

  • There Have Been Multiple Attempts To Sell Last Meals To Normal People

    People love to be scared, as evidenced by the dozens of horror movies released every year. One of the great conundrums of being alive is that we can't really know what death is like, and it turns out normal people will sometimes pay good money to get a little bit closer to their untimely demise.

    Marketers know this, and there have been many, many attempts to profit on people's morbid curiosity. For example, a few years ago a company called Death Row Dinners attempted to recreate a last meal dining experience for the small price of approximately $80. Before they could get rolling, though, would-be customers freaked out, and ironically started sending them death threats. Similarly, a company in Canada delivered last meals of famous murderers straight to your door for just $20. Pizza Hut even got in on the action back in the '80s where they ran an ad where a convict chose a Pizza Hut pizza as their last meal. It was not well-received.

  • Brian Price Cooked 300 Death Row Meals In 11 Years

    Brian Price was sentenced to 15 years in a Texas prison after sexually assaulting his ex-wife in 1989. When he first showed up, the guards asked him what job he'd had on the outside. Being a musician and photographer, they obviously decided to make him a cook.

    After a couple years of that, Price was put in charge of cooking the meals for death-row inmates. This meant that for 11 years he cooked over 300 last meals for inmates about to die.

  • Inmate Meals Are Usually Prepared By Other Prisoners

    The crazy thing about Brian Price, the chef who prepared over 300 last meals, is that he himself was a prisoner. In fact, virtually all final meals are prepared by other inmates. It's not like a prison will pay extra to hire some fancy chef to prepare a meal for convicted criminals sentenced to death, when they've got so many able-bodied inmates on hand. 

    It's a little morbid to think about cooking food for somebody that's about to die, and it's even weirder to do so for somebody who may not exactly be your friend, but is definitely in a similar situation to you. Maybe prisons secretly hope having to prepare death-row food scares prisoners straight.

  • A Lot Of Requests Are Surprisingly Basic

    Although there will always be exciting and lavish requests for last meals, most requests border on the juvenile. When looking through recreated photographs of last meals, the choices these criminals made can be depressingly basic. One meal was nothing but Coke and Cheez-Doodles, while another was merely a single olive. Timothy McVeigh ordered just two pints of ice cream, and Gary Heidnik ate nothing but two slices of cheese pizza and two cups of coffee.