Acceptance Of Cultivated Meat For Companion Animals
A large portion of factory-farmed animal products end up in other animals’ food — especially companion animals such as dogs and cats. In the U.S., for example, more than a quarter of all factory-farmed meat goes to our companion animals. Although much of this meat is considered undesirable for human consumption, the companion animal food industry is a massive financial gain for animal agriculture. Plus, as humans become more concerned with giving their animals higher-quality products, the number of animals raised and killed solely to feed companion animals may increase.
According to the authors of this paper, feeding meat to companion animals may be especially challenging for some vegetarians and vegans (veg*ns). They call this the “vegetarian’s dilemma” — is it acceptable to give companion animals meat to keep them healthy, even when doing so leads to the death of other animals? Although plant-based diets are an option in some cases, not all animal guardians feel comfortable putting their companions on an animal-free diet.
Cultivated meat is now being discussed as a future alternative to conventional companion animal food. Because this meat is grown without the need to kill animals, it may address some of the ethical concerns with meat-based animal diets. However, while there are many studies on the acceptance of cultivated meat for human consumption, there is little research on the companion animal food market. To fill this gap, this study assessed consumers’ willingness to purchase cultivated meat for their companion animals.
729 cat and dog guardians completed a questionnaire about their eating habits, their animals’ diets, and their attitudes toward consuming cultivated meat themselves as well as feeding it to their animals. Of these, 85% were women and 33% were veg*n. The authors note that the sample was biased as it overrepresented veg*ns, women, and educated middle-class professionals.
The results showed that many veg*ns feed their companion animals meat products. Indeed, 90% of all the participants said that their animals eat meat-based diets while only 10% of respondents’ animals ate a mostly plant-based diet.
For 51% of participants, the most important concern about removing meat from their animals’ diet was believing it’s necessary. Meanwhile, 26% of guardians believed meat is natural for companion animals. Dog guardians were more likely to accept the idea of plant-based animal diets than cat guardians — the authors suggest this is because cats are obligate carnivores.
Regarding cultivated meat, 32.5% of participants would eat it themselves, and 47% would feed it to their companion animals. While 40% of omnivores responded that they would eat cultivated meat, only 16% of veg*ns would eat it. However, of the 65% of veg*ns who wouldn’t eat cultivated meat themselves, 56% would still feed it to their companions. Meanwhile, only 10% of omnivores who wouldn’t eat cultivated meat themselves would consider giving it to their companion animals.
Concerns about feeding cultivated meat to companions were similar to people’s concerns about removing conventional meat from their animals’ diets. The most common concern was the belief that cultivated meat isn’t natural, followed by fears that it’s not healthy. Among those who would feed cultivated to their companion animals, the biggest concern was price.
Based on these results, the authors emphasize that we shouldn’t lump human cultivated meat together with cultivated meat for companion animals. It’s clear that some people would feed this type of meat to their animals even if they wouldn’t eat it themselves — however, some people in the study wouldn’t feed their animals cultivated meat even if they would consume it themselves. This could be a result of price concerns, beliefs about the necessity of conventional meat for animals, or a general unwillingness to take risks with one’s companions. However, the authors didn’t explore these issues and thus couldn’t draw definitive conclusions.
For advocates and cultivated meat producers, the authors recommend targeting people who feed meat to their animals but aren’t heavily attached to it, as well as veg*n animal guardians. They argue that unlike choosing food for themselves, people aren’t as swayed by emotional attachments and traditions when feeding their animals. Instead, the main concerns tend to be around health and safety. Therefore, cultivated meat campaigns should focus on reassuring animal guardians about the nutritional and safety qualities of these products.