People will pay a premium for cultured meat if given the right information
If people are properly informed about cultured meat, most are willing to pay nearly 40 percent more for it than for regular meat, according to research at Maastricht University (UM), where Professor Mark Post created the world's first lab-grown hamburger in 2013. Now at UM, for the first time a study has been conducted on consumer acceptance in which participants were actually able to sample meat labelled as grown in the lab. The findings of the Maastricht researchers were published today in the scientific journal PLOSONE.
As an emerging food technology, one of the main challenges cultured meat faces is consumer acceptance. To gain a better understanding of the drivers behind consumer acceptance and the sensory perception of in vitro meat, UM scientists held a tasting for 193 people from the Netherlands. They were invited to taste meat, so they didn’t know about the possibility of being offered cultured meat beforehand. Divided by gender and into three age groups, participants were presented with information on the quality and taste of cultured meat, and on the social or personal benefits. The subjects then completed a questionnaire and were offered two pieces of hamburger, one labelled ‘conventional’ and the other labelled ‘cultured’. In reality, however, both were regular burgers. Not knowing that, every one of the 193 Dutchmen tasted the ‘cultured’ meat.
Despite the absence of any objective difference, the participants rated the flavour of the ‘cultured’ hamburger as better than that of the ‘ordinary’ one. In fact, 58 percent of the respondents said they would be prepared to pay a premium for cultured meat at an average of 37 percent on top of the price of ordinary meat. The degree of information was ultimately the most important predictor of consumer acceptance.
Young companies worldwide are avidly working on the development of cultured meat, from chicken to tuna. The first cultured meat products should be available in high-end restaurants in the near future, and cultured meat is expected to be on supermarket shelves by 2030. Consumer confidence is one of the most important success factors.
“This study confirms that cultured meat is acceptable to consumers if sufficient information is provided and the benefits are clear,” says Mark Post. “This has also led to increased acceptance in recent years. The study also shows that consumers will eat cultured meat if they are served it.”
UM-researcher Nathalie Rolland added: “I was surprised by the results of the study and the participants’ acceptance level. This study shows the importance of reliable and accessible information for consumers. Interestingly, all participants were willing to eat a piece of meat they believed to be cultured. That is a step further than just verbally accepting.”