Labeling Cell-Based Fish Products
The field of cell-based meat, chicken, and seafood is fast-developing. Investors and researchers are developing ways to create food products that mirror conventional meat, using nothing but cells taken from live animals. Though such products are not yet on the market, many exhibitions have showcased prototypes. The question is, how should these products be labelled to ensure they are well received by the public?
Producers need a consistent term for naming the technology, both for regulation and for consumers to understand what they’re buying. This study considered the impact of labeling on multiple stakeholders. For example, cell-based meat producers argue that terms such as “fake meat” and “lab-grown meat” portray the product as unnatural and are scientifically inaccurate. On the other side of the coin, terms such as “clean meat” and “cruelty-free meat” may face stiff opposition from conventional meat producers. Such terms were ruled out of contention.
3,186 participants were randomly selected to gauge perceptions of seven seafood labels. One key aim of this study was to find a labeling term that is sufficient on its own. No additional explanation of cell-based seafood should be necessary, since you may see the product for the first time while browsing in store. Participants were simply shown an image of a product and its label, which means the winning label may be effective as a common name for future production. “Cell-based seafood” was considered ideal based on the follow criteria:
A. Consumers can easily distinguish the product from farmed and wild-caught seafood.
B. Consumers with seafood allergies know they should avoid the product (as cell-based seafood may still contain allergens).
C. Consumers perceive the product as safe, healthy and nutritious.
D. The name is not disparaging to either cell-based seafood or its conventional counterpart.
E. Participants viewed the term as an appropriate name for the product (this time after hearing a description of the technology).
Criterion A knocked out “cultivated seafood,” “cultured seafood,” and “produced using cellular aquaculture,” since it was unclear that these weren’t conventional seafood products. Criterion C knocked out “cultivated from the cells of __” and “grown directly from the cells of __” (the blank represents the type of seafood). These phrases didn’t sound as appetizing, nutritious, or safe.
It turns out that “cell-based seafood” just outperformed “cell-cultured seafood.” Participants viewing “cell-based seafood” felt it would be just as tasty and nutritious as conventional seafood. They were also just as likely to purchase the product and judge it as safe for children as conventional seafood. All this means we might soon be scurrying for “cell-based” products on our supermarket shelves, and animal advocates working in the cultured meat space will surely take note of these findings.