Cultivated meat is being put forward as a sustainable alternative to conventional meat production.
With a growing number of food tech entrepreneurs digging their teeth into lab-grown beef, pork, and chicken projects in recent years (the first cell-based chicken ingredient is already on the market in Singapore), the question remains: do consumers have an appetite for cell-cultured meat?
Gaining 'in-depth' knowledge into consumer acceptance
“Like any new food, the ultimate success of cultured meat depends on consumer acceptance,” note researchers of a new study seeking to pinpoint the key factors affecting consumer acceptance of cultured meat.
The research team included Ashkan Pakseresht from Novia University of Applied Sciences in Finland, Sina Ahmadi Kaliji from Iran’s Sari Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University, and Maurizio Canavari from the Alma Mater Studiorum-Università di Bologna in Italy.
“My research interests include consumer acceptance of novel food technologies. Among meat substitutes, cultured meat is well-positioned to address the ever-increasing food demand and concerns for its environmental effects, even with serious technical hurdles to overcome,” explained Pakseresht.
One of the main reasons the research team conducted the systematic literature review was to develop a proposal for research it intends to do in this area. In order to develop a new proposal, the researchers needed to understand the history of the topic – notable in terms of methods employed and results obtained, and eventually identify the research gap, we were told.
“Through this review we gained more in-depth knowledge on the topic of consumer acceptance of cultured meat as well as methodological rationalisation for our new research proposal.”
Ethical and environmental concerns
The study authors collated key data from 43 articles to synthesize existing knowledge on factors’ affecting consumers’ acceptance of cultured meat technology.
Consumer studies indicated at least seven factors affecting consumer acceptance of cultured meat: public awareness, risk-benefit perception, ethical and environmental concerns, emotions, personal factors, product properties, and availability of meat alternatives.
Concerning ethical and environmental concerns, some previous research has found that animal welfare plays a role in consumers’ reduce meat diet and acceptance of cultured meat. Others have suggested that animal welfare and ecological concerns were the most influential drivers of consumers’ attitudes towards cultured meat.
Pakseresht was particularly surprised by the factors influencing consumers’ willingness to pay a price premium for alt meat.
“Environmental and ethical concerns stimulate a desire to preserve the environment and encourage consumers to accept more sustainable food production systems. However, it was surprising to learn that ethical and environmental concerns prompted consumers to be willing to pay a premium price for purchasing meat substitute (e.g. plant-based substitutes), but not necessarily cultured meat,” he told this publication.
“The results indicated that the environmental advantages alone do not seem to be a strong motivation to compensate for perceived risks (or disgust impulse) of this novel technology.”
Following ethical and environmental concerns, the next most significant factors included public awareness and knowledge, and personal factors.
How can these findings help cell-based meat producers?
The review identified three major themes amongst the retrieved articles. Firstly, the researchers noted a ‘general reluctancy’ in acceptance of cultured meat. Secondly, the main drivers of acceptance appeared to be knowledge and heuristic cues – such as perceived healthiness and naturalness, and thirdly, that environmental and ethical concerns seem to have minor effects.
How can these findings help cell-cultured meat producers? According to Pakseresht, the results suggest that the main barrier to developing this technology is the consumer’s attitude.
“Future consumer research should focus on understanding the healthiness, safety, naturalness, and sustainability characteristics of cultured meat,” he told FoodNavigator.
“Our review indicated eight major interconnected factors as determinants of consumer acceptance of cultured meat. Among these factors, the role of knowledge, perceptions and personal trains seems to be more salient than environmental and ethical concerns alone.
“Hence, industry needs to consider the role of knowledge and communication especially focused on the healthiness, safety, and naturalness, in addition to the sustainability characteristics of cultured meat.”
‘Review of factors affecting consumer acceptance of cultured meat’
Published online 1 December 2021
Authors: Ashkan Pakseresht, Sina Ahmadi Kaliji, Maurizio Canavari.