Are US Consumers Beginning to Accept Cultivated Meat? – vegconomist

Recent studies tracking US consumer attitudes toward cultivated meat have found a relatively positive outlook for a product yet to be available for mass consumption.

A YouGov survey of 9,272 US adults conducted in May 2024 revealed only 50% of the participants preferred to eat animal meat when asked to choose between traditional and lab-grown meat, assuming it was identical to meat. Interestingly, 14% responded that they wouldn’t eat either.

This 50% preference for animal meat was consistent across various categories — region, gender, politics, age, and race — with only slight variations. The most significant divergence was political: 68% of Republicans preferred animal meat over lab-grown meat.

Recent studies tracking US consumer attitudes toward including cultivated meat in their diets have found a relatively positive outlook for a product yet to be available for mass consumption.
© YouGov

The survey questioned whether participants would consider trying meat made in a laboratory instead of animal or plant-based meat without specifying that the cultivated meat was identical to conventional meat. In this scenario, only 10% of adults responded “definitely,” 40% said “definitely not,” and 12% were “not sure.”

On the other hand, a Consumer Food Insights survey conducted by Purdue University on 1,200 Americans found that around 60% of consumers would try cultivated beef, chicken, and pork in restaurants, while around 30% said they were “unwilling.”

Still, consumers perceived cultivated meat as less tasty and healthy than conventional meat, with traditional beef and chicken rating higher in both categories.

GOOD Meat in retail
© GOOD Meat

Consumer awareness

In contrast to these recent findings, a 2021 systematic review by Wageningen Economic Research in the Netherlands on consumer acceptance of alternative proteins found that consumers preferred pulses, algae, or plant-based proteins over cultivated meat as alternatives to meat.

According to the findings, 60% of consumers unfamiliar with cultivated meat were unwilling to try it, while 36% of people familiar with the novel meat said they would not try it. The researchers highlight that public awareness impacts consumer acceptance or rejection of a product and that awareness of cultivated meat remains very low.

But, in recent years, cultivated meat has reached media headlines as products have been approved for sale in Singapore, the USA, and Israel. Conversely, Italy and US states Florida and Alabama have prohibited the technology, calling it “lab-grown” or “fake meat,” which, for good or bad, has broadened public awareness and increased consumer familiarity with the technology.

The UK's Ivy Farm Technologies announces it has signed a manufacturing agreement with Synbio Powerlabs Oy, the Finnish leader in synthetic biology, to produce its cultivated meat products at a large scale.
Image courtesy of Ivy Farm

Acceptance remains a challenge

A 2023 Statista Consumer Insights survey into a willingness to try cultivated meat highlighted the technology’s challenges in gaining widespread global acceptance. For instance, 20% of respondents in India expressed interest, while only 9% in France said they would try cultivated meat.

In the UK, 17% of participants were willing to try it, while in the USA, only 16% said they would try cultivated meat. Some European countries, such as Sweden and Germany, matched the US’s 16% interest level. Italy had a 14% interest rate despite a ban on production and sale, while Spain showed the slightest interest at 13%.

Understanding consumers

In general, widespread acceptance of cultivated meat remains challenging. However, researchers suggest that with the emergence of cultivated meat products and increased consumer awareness, studies based on cognitive science could better understand barriers such as food neophobia, perceived unnaturalness, and safety concerns. They argue that proper communication about the production and benefits of cultivated meat could advance acceptance thus propelling a shift to more sustainable diets.

They point out the necessity of expanding audience and environments beyond online studies, for example, tracking subgroups such as farmers (concerned about potential job losses) or examining consumer acceptance within specific food contexts where people can compare products.

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