Cultured Meat Burgers Vs. Veggie Burgers Vs. Beef Burgers
If everyone would adopt plant-based and cultured-meat alternatives to animal protein, it could reduce the suffering of millions of farmed animals and benefit the environment. In recent years, plant-based food sales have boomed in North America; developments in cultured meat have also progressed rapidly, though it is not yet available to the public. Our food choices are complex and can be a product of our culture, identity, taste preferences, and political and social views. It’s important for vegan advocates to understand why people choose meat alternatives, and why they do not.
This survey set out to explore people’s attitudes towards plant-based and cultured-meat alternatives to animal proteins. More than 500 Canadian citizens from a range of age groups took part in the survey. The researchers asked participants if they would (hypothetically) buy a beef, plant-based, or cultured-meat burger, given that all would taste the same and have a similar nutritional content. When assuming the different burger types had the same price, the results suggest that 65% of consumers would buy the beef burger, 21% the plant-based burger, 11% the cultured-meat burger, and 4% none of the options.
People who favored the plant-based option generally had existing protective attitudes toward the environment, had concern for animal welfare, were politically liberal, or would say that they were conscious about their food choices. It came as no surprise that vegetarians were more likely to purchase the plant-based and cultured-meat burgers, with a greater interest in plant-based options. Some who chose the plant-based burger were also open to purchasing the cultured-meat burger. Young people and those with a higher level of education also had a greater preference for both types of burger free of conventional meat.
Those supporting both organic farming and genetically-modified foods generally chose cultured-meat burgers. The authors suggest that a general interest in food production and in new types of food may explain this. Women had a lower preference for cultured-meat burgers than men, relating to other research showing that men are more likely to be early users of high-tech products. Plus, the authors note that consumers often view plant-based meat alternatives currently on the market as feminine. Interestingly, those advocating for traditional farming did not favor cultured meat due to concerns over its impact on rural landscapes and the farming sector.
So then, how can we explain why most people chose the beef burger? Despite the survey stating that all burgers would taste the same, 92% of participants did not believe this claim, and of these, most people (90%) said that beef burgers tasted better. Interestingly, those who eat meat frequently were less likely to purchase plant-based burgers but more likely to choose a cultured-meat option than those who eat meat rarely or not at all. The survey also showed that higher prices for meat-alternative burgers would turn consumers away. The researchers did not examine choices relating to how healthy or environmentally friendly the different options may be.
Vegan advocates, food manufacturers, and restaurant owners should continue to promote plant-based burgers based on their ethical and environmental benefits. But we can do more to improve the perception of how tasty plant-based and cultured-meat burgers are. We can also focus on marketing them in different ways so they appeal to the broadest demographic possible.