Will the public ever accept lab-grown meat?

Posted Jul 7, 2019 by Tim Sandle
How can companies investing in lab-grown meat prepare the ground for public acceptability of the products? One answer is to sell ‘labriculture’. This means less emphasis on lab, and more emphasis on the cultural acceptance.
Lab-grown beef.
Lab-grown beef.
Mosa Meat / media photo
In the near future, based on successful studies, food technologist will be able to mass-produce meat directly from animal cells. This process carries a number of advantages for the environment and it avoids issues associated with animal cruelty.
According to researchers looking into the future for laboratory grown meat, the emphasis upon the product being associated with science, laboratories and high-technology is actually off-putting for many consumers, especially the idea of ‘frankenfoods’ (which was something that has stuck to foods made with genetically modified organisms).
The researchers outline their ideas for a lab-grown meat strategy in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition (“The Impact of Framing on Acceptance of Cultured Meat”). Here they state that the first stage is to change and seek to change the way the media presents lab-grown meat, especially deemphasizing the laboratory aspect as this appears to carry a negative connotation with the general public.
File Photo: Mosa Meat has improved on the quality of lab-grown meats. This is a real hamburger  made...
File Photo: Mosa Meat has improved on the quality of lab-grown meats. This is a real hamburger, made with Mosa's lab-grown meat.
Mosa Meat / media photo
READ MORE: Essential science: What is the future of lab-grown meat?
Commenting on the paper, Christopher Bryant of the University of Bath says the product carries many advantages for society. As he tells Laboratory Manager magazine: “Cultured meat has the potential to reduce the ethical, environmental, and public health burdens associated with conventional livestock farming”. These aspects need to be championed, he argues.
However., to be a success there needs to be a market demand. It doesn’t matter how close to ‘real’ meat lab-grown meat tastes unless consumers are willing to put products derived from lab-grown meat in their shopping baskets.
READ MORE: Why lab-grown meat will soon be in stores
Dr. Bryant further explains: “Surveys show hesitancy towards cultured meat centers around its perceived ‘unnaturalness’, which can lead to concerns about food safety.”
File photo shows a good-sized burger about to be eaten  at Oakes Grill.
File photo shows a good-sized burger about to be eaten, at Oakes Grill.
However, there are opportunities for industry if they act quickly, according to Bryant: “As most people have so far heard little or nothing of cultured meat, this is a crucial time to assess how the framing of this innovation can impact consumer perceptions.”
According to a poll of 480 U.S. adults (of whom 88 percent were meat eaters), as the website Bioengineer finds, it was found that consumers those come across cultured meat via the ‘high tech’ perspective tend to adopt more negative attitudes and become less willing to consume it.
READ MORE: Impossible burger? It looks and tastes like meat
Part of the strategy is with moving away from the laboratory; as it stands when cultured meat is ready for mass release, it will not be produced in a lab but rather within a food processing plant. If this is coupled with the environmental aspect, then this presents a step forwards to addressing the issue of public concerns and will help to promote future-state cultured food products.