Antibiotic-free claims, followed by animal welfare, are the top consumer drivers for cell-based meat, says Mattson
The second most important factor to the 674 US adults that took part in an online survey in late August was to “reduce animal cruelty and increase animal welfare” (cited by 36%) with sustainability benefits such as “help reduce impact on the environment” (27%) and “positively impact greenhouse gases” (13%) falling further down the priority list for consumers.
The research was released as the FDA unveiled plans to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs, particularly in animal agriculture, in order to help address the growing threat of antibiotic resistance in humans.
'Only 20% of the population rejected the concept'
After being presented with a brief description of ‘clean meat,’* around a fifth of consumers surveyed said they would probably or definitely not buy it.
However, 46% said they would probably or definitely buy it (with the highest interest from Millennials and Gen Z consumers); and 33% were on the fence about the meat, which is grown in far cleaner conditions than regular meat and does not require the use of antibiotics.
This amounts to a ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to cell-based meat from four out of five consumers (79%), pretty remarkable numbers given no products are even on the market yet, said Mattson president Barb Stuckey, although perceptions could change rapidly if early products don’t meet expectations.
“With only the most basic information - we used GFI’s definition of clean meat - 46% of consumers said they would buy it, without any additional information. Another third are sitting on the fence, needing more facts before they commit. What’s more surprising is that only 20% of the population rejected the concept. And some of this 20% likely included the 4% in our study who were vegetarian or vegan.”
Mattson’s findings follow a Jan/Feb 2018 study of 1,185 US adults conducted by Faunalytics - a nonprofit research organization dedicated to animal rights – which found that around two thirds of consumers were willing to try cell-based meat.
‘It’s imperative that the industry agrees on one name that is used by the trade, regulators, and consumers…’
As for what to call it, “it's absolutely imperative that the industry agrees on one name that is used by the trade, regulators, and consumers, otherwise, it's just too confusing,” added Stuckey, who told delegates at the Good Food Conference in UC Berkeley last week that the term ‘cell-based meat’ now favored by many players in the field made her a bit nervous.
Her comments came as members of the nascent industry met after the conference and provisionally agreed to form a trade association using the term ‘cell based meat’ (rather than ‘clean meat’), although regulators will ultimately decide what descriptors they must use on food labels.
According to Good Food Institute (GFI) senior scientist Dr Liz Specht, cell-based meat offers several advantages over traditional meat in that it does not contain bacterial pathogens that pose food safety risks; it does not utilize antibiotics; it has a longer shelf life (because no bacteria are present to accelerate the degradation process); it will not suffer from price/supply volatility risks from animal infectious diseases (avian flu, porcine epidemic diarrheal virus); it requires fewer inputs for a given quantity of meat, and it is "more controllable and tunable," enabling production of only high-grade meats in quantities dictated by consumer demand, rather than by the biology of the animal.
It also addresses two public health threats associated with animal agriculture that are "routinely downplayed relative to their enormous potential impact," claims Dr Specht: bacterial antibiotic resistance and outbreaks of zoonotic disease (infectious diseases that jump from animals to humans).
- GFI has just launched a $3m competitive grant program to support open-source plant-based and clean meat research. More details HERE.
Higher Steaks: ‘We will work together towards educating the public’
Benjamina Bollag, co-founder and CEO at UK-based cell-based meat co Higher Steaks - which attended the meeting – said that no term would satisfy everyone, making it even more important in the early days to build strong brands.
“Everyone [who stayed until the end of the meeting] agreed, we put it to a vote. The agreement came after we discussed all the other options and looked at advantages/disadvantages of each.
“My view is that ‘cell-based’ is very neutral, it is not the most appealing name, but does not provoke anyone, which I think is a good position for now. Food labels will not be determined by us, and we will most likely have further discussions around labelling, but I think having a single term is good for now.
“Depending on the legal term we are given, it might be better to have different names in the long run. On the other hand, I think for food marketing, it might be more advantageous for each company to use their brand name or other.”
Asked about the term ‘cultured meat,’ she said: “Cultured meat had several difficulties from a point of understanding, although it was a lot less controversial than ‘clean meat.’”
As to what the new association would initially focus on, she said: “I’m not able to comment on this other than the fact that we will work together towards educating the public and moving regulations in the right direction.”
*The text consumers were shown by Mattson said: ‘An innovation in food now allows meat to be produced in new ways. It’s called ‘Clean Meat,’ and is identical at the cellular level to conventional meat. This is real meat grown directly from animal cells. Clean meat is produced in a clean facility, similar to a brewery. The process does not involve raising and slaughtering farm animals. The final product has an identical taste and texture to conventional meat. Several companies have already successfully produced and taste-tested clean meat. The products will be available for retail purchase in 1-5 years.’
GOOD FOOD CONFERENCE: "A lot of our colleagues still think we're absolutely crazy..."
“In terms of [cell-based meat] capturing a significant chunk of [global meat] market share, I’d say we’re looking at a 10-15 year horizon.” Uma Valeti, MD, CEO and founder, Memphis Meats
“Meat is a complex tissue comprised of several cell types together in a 3D structure… we believe that the consumer is looking for this kind of meat, and only by this will we be able to penetrate the market and have something that will be appealing enough to replace conventional meat.” Neta Lavon, MD, VP R&D, Aleph Farms
“A lot our colleagues still think we’re absolutely crazy... 80% of the cost of the final product roughly is going to be the feedstock… so paying a lot of attention to that is absolutely critical… we have to remove all the dogmas from this field and start all over again.” Mark Post, PhD, MD, SCO and co-founder, Mosa Meat
“Clean [ie. cell-cultured] seafood is a fascinating concept and one that we really ought to be embracing.” Sylvia Earle, PhD, president and chairman, Mission Blue / The Sylvia Earle Alliance. National Geographic Society explorer in residence