Are Consumers Bullish on Real Beef that’s Bull-Free? New Study Sheds Some Light

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Business Insider reporter Erin Brodwin enjoys a sample of cultured sausage made by New Age Meats.

Consumers are salivating to feast on meat grown from animal cells as opposed to animal slaughter.

Or they’re not.

What you believe may end up depending on which headlines you’re reading. And a new survey just out conducted by consulting firm Kadence offered some depressing headlines.

Meat & Poultry touted the study with the headline, “Research: Clean meat not resonating with US consumers.” Food Dive, citing the M&P story, led with “Only 3 in 10 US consumers would buy cultured meat, study finds.”

What did Kadence’s study actually find?

The News Is Actually Pretty Good

While Kadence hasn’t released its actual study, its press release offers some insights into the new data.

“27% of US adults say they are likely to buy clean meat,” Kadence managing director Miriam Konz confirms, while the press release also notes that “36% of consumers find the concept of clean meat appealing.” Kadence also cited other research finding that 66% of consumers said they’d be willing to try meat cultured from animal cells.

So 27% will buy it, 36% find it appealing, and 66% are willing to give it a try. And this is supposed to be bad news for the clean meat start-ups?

Even the most pessimistic reading (that only about 30 percent of Americans would buy it) still means this nascent field of start-ups has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar industry. As Konz told me, “I agree that if 1/3 were actually to purchase, it would be very good news for clean meat producers.”

Or to put it another way, as food futurist Tony Hunter quipped, “So the conventional meat industry may ‘only’ lose 30% of its current market?”

What Do Other Studies Say?

It was only a few months ago that Fast Company was reporting on a Faunalytics study finding that two-thirds of Americans are down to try clean meat and 46% said they’d buy it regularly.

The Faunalytics research echoed a study conducted by researchers at Harvard and Texas Tech which found widespread willingness to eat cultured meat. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Of the 3,200 students surveyed (average age 20), 60 percent reported that they would eat cultured meat. After reading of the technology’s supposed health and environmental benefits, that number increased to 80 percent. A second online survey conducted with people of all ages returned similar figures.”

Sprinkling a Grain of Salt on Clean Meat (Research)

It does seem like results may be both in the eye of the beholder as well as in the mouth of the questioner. How the question is worded (using terms like “lab-grown meat” which are shown to turn people off, or “clean meat” which tests quite positively with consumers) can dramatically affect the outcome. Describing benefits (food safety, environmental, animal welfare, etc.) can also affect the outcome, as opposed to making it seem like a dare (e.g., “would you eat lab-grown meat?”) And then there’s the question of whether you’d be willing to try it versus regularly buy it, which Konz pointed out to me are of course two very different metrics.

In the end, no matter how the question is asked, we’re often pretty poor at telling pollsters what we would or wouldn’t buy, especially about products that don’t yet exist in the market.

However, I suspect that Food Dive’s concluding sentence about the Kadence study is likely accurate: “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?”

Bon Appétit!

Paul Shapiro is the author of the Washington Post bestseller, Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World.

Written by

Husband of Toni Okamoto. Author of nat’l bestseller Clean Meat. CEO of The Better Meat Co. Host of Business for Good Podcast. 4x TEDx speaker.

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