As an emerging food technology, one of the main challenges cultured meat faces is consumer acceptance. To gain a better understanding of the drivers behind consumer acceptance and the sensory perception of in vitro meat, researchers at the university asked 193 participants from the Netherlands to taste real meat, so they didn’t know about the possibility of being offered cultured meat beforehand.
The participants were divided into three age and sex-matched groups and were presented with information on the quality and taste of cultured meat, and on its perceived social or personal benefits.
Each group received a different type of info: Group 1: Societal Benefits (environment, animal welfare). Group 2: Personal benefits (process, info on nutrition and safety). Group 3: Meat quality & taste (nothing on the specific benefits of cultured meat).
The subjects then completed a questionnaire and were offered two pieces of hamburger, one labelled ‘conventional’ and the other labelled ‘cultured’. In reality, however, both were regular burgers. Not knowing that, every one of the 193 tasted the ‘cultured’ meat.
Despite the absence of any objective difference, the participants rated the flavour of the ‘cultured’ hamburger as better than that of the ‘ordinary’ one.
In fact, 58% of the respondents said they would be prepared to pay a premium for cultured meat at an average of 37% on top of the price of ordinary meat. The degree of information was ultimately the most important predictor of consumer acceptance.
The study concluded: “The content of information seems of minor importance. When framed positively and when tasting experiences are favorable, acceptance of cultured meat is potentially high. The perceived benefits of cultured meat may translate in a willingness to pay a premium price.”
Mark J. Post, one of the authors of the study, and who is also Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Mosa Meat, a company that aims to commercialise cultured meat, said: “This study confirms that cultured meat is acceptable to consumers if sufficient information is provided and the benefits are clear. This has also led to increased acceptance in recent years. The study also shows that consumers will eat cultured meat if they are served it.”
UM-researcher Nathalie Rolland said: “I was surprised by the results of the study and the participants’ acceptance level. This study shows the importance of reliable and accessible information for consumers. Interestingly, all participants were willing to eat a piece of meat they believed to be cultured. That is a step further than just verbally accepting.”
She added: “The participants of this study seemed to be already well informed: 55% answered they knew what is cultured meat, which is high compared to other studies.”
The effect of information content on acceptance of cultured meat in a tasting context
Nathalie C. M. Rolland, C. Rob Markus, Mark J. Post
Published: April 16, 2020