What Drives Consumers To Accept Clean Meat?
Meat consumption is a huge animal welfare and sustainability problem. Although concerns about the suffering of farmed animals and the environment are growing, there are still too few people who are willing to significantly reduce or stop their meat consumption.
What could make this transition easier is clean meat, also known as cell-based meat, lab-grown meat, or in vitro meat. This product, grown from muscle stem-cells in a lab environment, is intended to be an exact replica of conventional meat in appearance, taste, texture, and nutritional value. The hope is that clean meat will be able to compete with conventional meat once it hits the market – but in order for it to do this, consumers must be willing to buy it. This study looked at how willing German meat-eating consumers are to accept clean meat.
The researchers sent out a questionnaire to participants, which asked them questions about how much they knew about clean meat already. After explaining what clean meat is, it then asked participants what they thought the consequences of clean meat would be for animals, traditional farmers, world hunger, and the climate. It then asked how likely participants were to try clean meat, eat it regularly and recommend it to others. The questions in the second part of the questionnaire (consequences) were grouped into three factors: “ethics” (animal welfare and environmental), “emotional objections” (thinking it will taste bad or be bad for traditional farmers), and “global diffusion optimism” (thinking it will spread across the globe and help solve problems connected to hunger and global warming).
The study found that there was only moderate willingness to accept clean meat in Germany. 57% of participants said they intended to try clean meat and, of those, only about half said they would eat it regularly. Those who agreed the most with the statements related to ethics (for example: “[Clean meat] will improve animal welfare conditions.”, “[Clean meat] is ethical.”) were most likely to want to try it. The ethics factor was the best at explaining differences in whether consumers wanted to try clean meat or not, emotional objections were the second-best and predicted that people would be unwilling to try it. “Global diffusion optimism” explained little of the variance, but predicted that people would be more willing to try it.
This study, therefore, finds that in order to make consumers more likely to accept clean meat as an alternative to conventional meat, animal advocates should promote its ethical advantages and try to overcome emotional objections, for example by focusing on the similarities between clean meat and conventional meat in terms of appearance, taste, texture, and nutritional value. While clean meat is not yet on the market, it’s important to continue to strategize how it’s marketed so that we can be prepared to promote it when the time comes.