Clean Meat, Naturalness, And Disgust
Clean meat is a hot topic right now, and will likely only become more so as the product gets closer to being available on the market. Faunalytics recently published a groundbreaking study on consumer acceptance of clean meat, and it shows that many in the U.S. are excited to try it, and even eat it regularly. In other words, now is the time to be thinking about how clean meat will be packaged and marketed, before it hits shelves.
In this study, researchers wanted to look at the perception of clean meat (which they referred to as “cultured meat”), in particular the issues of naturalness and disgust, and how different descriptions of the product could raise or lower acceptance of it. They noted that “new food technologies” are often perceived negatively at first, even though they may have clear social and health benefits, and they hypothesized that people would view clean meat with a greater degree of disgust than conventional meat. Using two different experiments – one doing a comparison of clean meat to conventional meat and one providing a technical description of its production – they tested their hypothesis.
What they found was that “the way this novel meat is described can have a profound impact,” and that labels such as “in vitro” and “cultured” are generally problematic. For the respondents of this study, describing the production process and how it differs from conventional meat production was the biggest negative factor. Instead, respondents reacted better when they heard that the end product was identical in smell, taste, and texture. They note that one of the biggest limitations of the study, and perhaps all studies of clean meat, is that participants were not able to try the hypothetical product. When the product comes to market, the researchers say, it’s crucial that marketing “emphasizes the properties of the product, not its production process.”
For animal advocates, the prospect of eating real meat – even if it’s not from a living animal – might evoke mixed feelings. However, it’s important to recognize that we are not necessarily the market for it. With only a small percentage of the U.S. being vegan, but about 66% of the U.S. being interested in trying clean meat, it’s vital for us to take their opinions seriously: their choice to eat clean meat could save millions and millions of animals.