Brazilian Consumers Would Give Clean Meat A Try
Imagine this: You’re sitting at a table, sinking your teeth into a crispy chicken nugget while the animal whose flesh you’re eating is running around the table. The described scene is part of a promotional video of Eat JUST Inc., a food technology company that wants to bring cell-cultured meat to the table. From a single cell of a feather, Eat JUST Inc. wants to produce chicken by stimulating the cell to divide and differentiate into muscle cells in a petri dish (or vat at scale). The resulting clump of cells is nothing less than chicken, grown in the lab.
Even though no cultured meat product is available in supermarkets yet, the technology behind the vision is already there, and companies are racing towards that reality. The benefits are obvious: Despite having a lower environmental footprint than conventionally produced meat, cultured meat has the potential to greatly reduce animal suffering.
However, consumers might hesitate to eat lab-grown meat. Past surveys have shown that many people are concerned about health risks or disapprove of cell-cultured meat because of its “unnatural” production. It is important to know about these concerns so that companies and policymakers can address them. After all, there’s no use in bringing cultured meat products to the market if consumers are not willing to buy them.
Therefore, a group of researchers in Brazil designed a study to investigate the current opinions about lab-grown meat. They performed an online survey with 626 Brazilian consumers, mostly from a highly educated background. After asking them about their meat-eating habits and their knowledge about cultured meat, they showed them the promotional video from Eat JUST Inc. Finally, they asked whether the participants would be willing to try cultured meat and prompted them to explain the reasoning behind their answers. The researchers also analyzed differences between gender and between the two cities that the respondents were from.
Before watching the video, about 80% of respondents stated that they had little or no knowledge about cell-cultured meat. After watching the video, 39% of participants said they would eat lab-grown meat without any concerns and another 24% said it would depend on the taste, health consequences, price, and other characteristics of the product. The acceptance was lower for vegetarians and vegans, where only 23% would try lab-grown meat and 20% stated that “it depends.” There were no significant differences between men and women, but a small difference between the two cities. The most frequently mentioned benefits of cultured meat were animal welfare and the environment, whereas economic harms and health issues were the most frequent concerns. Overall, these results are similar to previous studies conducted in Europe, Australia and the United States.
The study was relatively small in size, the survey was brief and the analysis was very exploratory. Despite these shortcomings in certain areas, it still provides a glimpse into the opinions of Brazilian consumers on cultured meat. Altogether, the knowledge about cell-cultured meat is low, but the majority is willing to try it. This is in line with results from other parts of the world. Further, the survey confirmed that meat-eaters are the more promising target when marketing cell-based meat, even though a small proportion of vegetarians and vegans are also willing to give such products a try.
For a more detailed view of diet and attitudes towards farmed animals in Brazil and other countries, you might also want to check out Faunalytics’ study of BRIC nations from 2018.