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Only 3 in 10 US consumers would buy cultured meat, study finds

Only 3 in 10 US consumers would buy cultured meat, study finds
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Dive Brief:

  • According to a study done by Kadence International, lab-grown meat doesn’t look like it will be a staple in American households anytime soon. Only 17% of US consumers were familiar with the concept of clean meat, reported Meat + Poultry.
  • The study used a sample size of 2,000 adult consumers, only 27% of whom reported they would purchase cultured meat. However, 66% of consumers said they would be willing to try the lab-grown protein. In contrast, 75% of consumers in Belgium or the Netherlands said that they would be willing to try the products.
  • The study found that U.S. consumers are eating more meatless dinners and 40% of those polled stated they eat a meatless meal at least once a week.

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Dive Insight:

Many meat eaters find themselves at a crossroads. Many have an interest in helping Earth and reducing their meat consumption because of the industry's negative environmental impacts, but at the same time, they love the taste of meat.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meat consumption will reach a record high this year — 222.8 pounds of meat per person. Not only that, but 96% of Americans eat meat each day, and global demand is expected to double by 2050. Scientists warn that the biomass of cows, pigs, and chickens to fill these needs will be unsustainable.

Many people have already recognized this impending catastrophe. Thirty-one percent of Americans go meat-free on certain days, while Google searches for “vegan” jumped 90% in the past year, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Kadence study reaffirmed consumers’ commitment to reducing their meat consumption. Still, people are not just going to suddenly go cold turkey and give up meat completely, so what is the solution?

Several companies are working on “clean” lab-grown meat – a segment that MarketsandMarkets predicts will hit $15.5 million in just three years when it enters retail. However, this type of meat is not yet available, and the Kadence study indicates that it might not receive as warm of a welcome as anticipated.

While consumers are concerned about the environmental impacts of meat on the planet, many of them are not intimately familiar with the way the industry operates. Most consumers purchase their animal protein from grocery stores, where it is uniformly shrink-wrapped and cut into chunks that no longer resemble animals or the environment in which they are raised.

Although this has the negative effect of distancing consumers from the quality of the animal’s life, perhaps this disassociation of live animal conditions from meat has a silver lining. If cultured meat manufacturers are able to erase the background of where meat comes from and convince consumers that their product is just that — meat — then they may stand a chance. The Kadence study showed that more than two-thirds of Americans were willing to try the product, but only 17% were actually aware of what it truly was. The kicker is that to get consumers will buy into the concept, the new foods will need to mimic the tastes and textures of traditional meats. After all, lab-grown meat is not an alternative to meat, it is meat.

To get to the point where people are willing to not only try but buy, these companies are going to need to throw their full weight behind marketing efforts. Companies producing them should invest in intense marketing to help customers understand their products and their benefits while downplaying the differences between cultured and pasture-raised meat products.

To win over uncertain consumers and take the industry mainstream, it’s likely going to take making lab-generated meat comparable to its animal-based alternative. After all, who is going to say no to a product that tastes and looks the same as conventionally produced meat but requires up to 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, land and water?

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