But what about populations with traditionally lower meat intake, such as those on the Mediterranean?
A team of researchers in Demark has sought to find out how consumers in Croatia, Greece, and Spain perceive cultured meat, and whether they are willing to try or buy the novel food.
Cultured meat: Part of the Mediterranean Diet?
The hope is that cultured meat – otherwise known as in vitro, artificial, synthetic, cell-based, or lab-grown meat – could help reduce intensive animal agricultural and its negative effects on animals and the environment.
Swapping out conventional meat for cultured meat, which is essentially animal meat grown from cell cultures taken from a live animal, could offer a solution to consumers who do not want to remove meat from their diet. And of this population, there are many: according to the European Vegetarian Union, only 6% of the European population follows a meat-free diet.
“The main reason to have chosen these three countries is that they are Mediterranean, where they share a very well-known and promoted dietary pattern, the Mediterranean Diet, which is associated with both improved health in the long term, and with environmental sustainability,” Armando Perez-Cueto, Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, told FoodNavigator.
The Mediterranean Diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats, while also being low in meat and dairy.
“As this dietary pattern promotes very little amounts of meat, we thought it could be a good match switching between small amounts of meat from animal muscles to small amounts of cultured meat.”
Ultimately, the researchers wanted to know which consumers were more likely to make this shift. Cultured meats are not yet available in Europe, but some companies are aiming to commercialise within the EU by 2023.
“If the food sector wants to go towards more sustainable meat production, and if cultured meats [could] be alternatives in the near future, it would be strategic to know which consumer segments would be open [to it] in places with strong cultural dietary traditions,” said Perez-Cueto.
Appeal of cultured meat ‘generally low’
The researchers surveyed 2007 participants across the three countries, identifying three segments of meat consumers. The ‘non-meat eaters’ group made up 3.6% of the cohort.
Of the meat eaters, 50.2% were found to have a medium consumption of meat and a low consumption of processed meat. A total of 41.8% were categorised as having a high consumption of meat and a medium consumption of processed meat, and 4.4% had the highest frequency of meat consumption and a high processed meat consumption.
Findings revealed low rates of awareness of cultivated meat in Croatia, Greece, and Spain, with almost half of the participants (47%) having never before heard the term. Just 12% said they knew what cultured meat was, and those were most likely to be non-meat eaters.
Perez-Cueto suspects these results may be linked to promotion of the Mediterranean Diet within these countries. “I think that their relatively lower awareness indicates…that environmental concerns are not yet associated to food choices in the same level as in other EU areas, as the efforts remain on the promotion of the MedDiet in its traditional form – which privileges foods of plant origin [with preference for them] in their natural state,” we were told.
Most respondents (60%) thought of cultured meat as being kind to animals, and 45% said it is ‘healthy’ and ‘environmentally friendly’.
Concerning taste, just 16% described cultured meat as being ‘tasty’, demonstrating that appeal of cultured meat is ‘generally perceived as low’, noted the researchers. Further, 57% of respondents described cultured meat as ‘unnatural’.
Willingness to try and buy?
Respondents were also asked whether they would try cultured meat. A total of 43.5% said they would – a result the researchers noted was not too dissimilar from surveys in Germany, Italy, and the US.
Trying it is one thing. But buying it, is another. Of the participants surveyed, 41% said they would purchase cultured meat for the same price as conventional meat, and 53% would buy it for a lower price. This suggests that price is a ‘crucial factor’, noted the researchers.
“This study suggests that consumers in Croatia, Greece, and Spain are likely to purchase cultured meat if it is affordable,” they noted.
“Moreover, efforts should be made to increase mainstream consumer awareness about the environmental, ethical, and health aspects related to cultured meat to prepare citizens and the market for this innovation.”
‘How do Consumers Perceive Cultured Meat in Croatia, Greece, and Spain?
Published 14 April 2021
Authors : Paula Franceković, Lucía García-Torralba, Eleni Sakoulogeorga, Tea Vućković, and Armando Perez-Cueto.