Make no bones about it: Meat is terrible for the environment. With increasing awareness of this, more and more biotech startups are producing promising lab-grown meat, hoping to sweep up in the incoming consumer rush and also wean humankind off that sweet and succulent animal flesh we so love.
But it turns out, only a small portion of US consumers would consider eating in-vitro meat (IVM) grown from a petri dish on a regular basis. That said, they would be more inclined to eat cat and dog meat if it was grown in a lab.
The recent study, published in PLOS One, by the University of Queensland, Australia has looked into whether US consumers would actually be willing buy IVM. Their research meant grilling 673 people from a wide variety of social backgrounds on their meat consumption habits.
Over 65 percent of them said they were willing to try lab-grown meat. However, only a third said they would consider eating it regularly if it became commercially available.
The vast majority of the people who were anti-IVM said the main concern was the “taste” and “appeal of the product”. A further 24 percent said they were put off by ethical concerns, 20 percent said price would be a factor, and 4 percent said health concerns. A handful of others said the idea was “disrespectful to nature” or were worried that “cannibalism could occur”. A few more said they were concerned about the economic impact involved in cutting back on traditional agriculture.
“Respondents generally agreed that IVM is unnatural,” the study authors wrote. “However, participants also agreed with a number of positive factors, including that IVM would improve animal welfare conditions. Moreover, there was some agreement that IVM was ethical, a viable alternative to farmed meat, has the potential to solve world famine problems and reduce the impact of global warming associated with farming.”
They also found that men were more accepting of IVM than women were. People who were on the liberal side of the political spectrum were also more receptive to the idea than more conservative people.
The group said they were most unlikely to eat fish if produced as IVM, but were also less likely to eat poultry, pork, and beef grown in a lab. People did, however, say they would be more likely to eat horse meat, dog, and cat meat if it was grown in a lab.
A handful of companies have already developed IVM, which apparently doesn’t taste half bad either, but it’s currently insanely expensive and hardly a viable substitute for the multi-billion dollar meat industry in the US.
Once the science behind IVM allows manufacturers to cut the price, it seems the work will actually be peddling this stuff to consumers.