Consumer perceptions: How does cell-based meat compare to plant-based, insects, and meat itself?
Cultivated meat is slowly overcoming regulatory hurdles, with the goal of reaching the market.
The first cell-based meat company received regulatory approval in Singapore at the end of 2020, and a cultivated meat product successfully completed the FDA’s pre-market safety review in the US late last year.
However, as the vast majority of cultivated meat products are still under development, consumer acceptance and perception of these novel products have yet to be fully examined in a real-world setting.
It is also unclear how, in the consumer’s mind, cultured meat compares to other protein-based products, whether that be plant-based meat alternatives, other meat alternatives such as insects and fish, or conventional meat from slaughtered animals.
In a new study out of the Netherlands, researchers from Wageningen University & Research have sought to directly compare cultured meat to these products, with a particular focus on consumers’ willingness to consume.
A total of 323 Dutch participants responded to an online survey to determine their perceptions of conventional meat, cultured meat, fish, insects, and plant-based meat alternatives. Specifically, respondents had to score their perception for 10 attributes: natural, disgusting, safe, nutritious, healthy, tasty, sustainable, ethical, interesting, animal friendly, and willingness to consume.
The first finding of note was that compared to fish, insects, and plant-based meat alternatives, willingness to consume cultured meat was mostly judged to be ‘comparable’, with the exception of insects, which scored ‘significantly’ lower.
Compared to the other products, cultured meat was perceived as less safe, healthy (though comparable to meat), and natural. For tastiness, it was on the lower end, relatively, but ‘considerably’ higher than insects and comparable to plant-based meat alternatives.
On the other hand, cultured meat scored high in terms of sustainability, ethicality, animal friendliness, and interestingness.
It was found that two segments of respondents expressed ‘moderate’ interest in cultured meat. One of those segments had already largely adopted plant-based meat alternatives. “From an environmental perspective, there would be no need for this group to adopt cultured meat, since plant-based meat alternatives are both animal friendly and sustainable,” noted the researchers.
The other group of consumers that expressed moderate interest were ‘meat lovers’, whose willingness to consume products is ‘mainly driven by tastiness’. As this group still consumes meat very frequently, the researchers suggested it would be ‘most useful’ to further study this group of consumers and where possible, take their preferences and wishes into account during further developments of cultured meat.
“Future consumer research on ‘meat lovers’ could include more types and forms of cultured and conventional meat,” noted the researchers. “Consumer studies with physical samples would also be a desirable step, to confirm the stated preferences based on their current experience.”
The greatest challenge in consumer perceptions of cell-based meat in the Netherlands appears to relate to its image of naturalness, which would need to be overcome for a ‘general acceptance’, the researchers concluded.
Source: Journal of Food Science
‘Consumers’ perception of cultured meat relative to other meat alternatives and meat itself: A segmentation study’
Published 14 November 2022
Authors: Kees Cornelissen and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman.