In June, two companies that produce cultured meat—meat made by taking a cell sample from a living animal and growing it in a facility—became the first of their kind to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). to sell their products in the USA. And thanks to the brands’ (Upside Foods and Good Meat) partnerships with world-class chefs, diners at restaurants across the US can now enjoy the futuristic protein source.
But before cultured meat — also known as “lab-grown meat,” “clean meat,” or “cultured meat” — can find a permanent place on Americans’ plates, producers must answer a pretty fundamental question: How can they please consumers make you take a bite?
Market research shows that there is still a long way to go before many people’s mouths start watering at the thought of a lab-made chicken fillet. In a study published in 2022 Journal of Environmental PsychologyAuthors and UCLA behavioral scientists Daniel L. Rosenfeld and A. Janet Tomiyama revealed that “an estimated 35 percent of meat eaters and 55 percent of vegetarians were too disgusted by cultured meat to try it.”
“This feeling of disgust is an emotional reaction related to people’s perception that cultured meat is an “unnatural” product,” Rosenfeld told The Daily Beast. “That makes sense because cultured meat is inherently a creation made by humans,” he said. “And intuitively, the idea that cultured meat is unnatural leads to a reaction [wherein] People [feel] that cultured meat may not be safe to eat.”
The first step to incorporating cultured meat into your diet is to convince people to do so Is safe – and that starts with the words used to describe these products. “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” Paul Shapiro, author of Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World and CEO of alternative protein brand The Better Meat Co., told The Daily Beast. “And what that food is called, which we know from extensive consumer surveys, changes the number of people who are interested in eating it.”
The nomenclature of cultured meat has evolved as the industry has become more dynamic. Twenty years ago, the nicknames were “in vitro meat” and “lab-grown meat.” you day. But this jargon and scientific terms didn’t exactly whet consumers’ appetites. (“’In vitro meat’ made people think of in vitro fertilization at best,” Shapiro said.)
Next, companies that raised meat began calling their products “clean meat.” It was well received by consumers, who associated the term with progressive initiatives like clean energy, but not so much with conventional meat producers. “Clean meat,” they felt, implied that the alternative was dirty.
The preferred term today is “cultured meat.” In October 2022, 36 stakeholders of the Asian Pacific Society for Cellular Agriculture (a mix of startups, government groups and advocacy organizations with an interest in cultured meat) signed an agreement in which they standardizes the use of “cultured meat” to describe food products grown from animal cells.
Emma Ignaszewski, associate director of industry information and initiatives at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of alternative proteins (such as cultured and plant-based meats), told The Daily Beast that the term meets the three cores Criteria for naming a new product type: It distinguishes between other alternative protein products (e.g. plant-based meat), it is precise and descriptive, and it is attractive to consumers.
“’Lab-grown meat’ is inaccurate because the large-scale production process takes place in a production facility that is more like a brewery than a laboratory,” Ignaszewski said. “A term like ‘cell-based meat’ is accurate, but it is ambiguous because traditional meat is also made of cells and plant-based meat is made of cells.”
“Cruelty-free meat” is another term that is praised by many cultured meat advocates and is also well received by consumers. Whether it passes the test of accuracy, however, may be more of a philosophical question.
“What is an animal? “Is it a cell or is it an organism?” said Rosenfeld. “If you look at an animal as a living organism, then cultured meat is animal-free in the sense that what you eat is not actually part of an animal’s body [that lived] out there in the world. But if you look at an animal as something at the level of DNA and cells, then of course cultured meat is 100 percent animal tissue.”
The average American doesn’t actively wonder when life begins every time they sit down to a meal. Rather, says Rosenfeld, the positive perception of “animal-free meat” shows how words have a subconscious impact – and how terms can gain meaning by appealing to a person’s values.
Of course, the impact of language doesn’t stop with the name of a product. Cultured meat manufacturers choose their words carefully when using their websites, marketing materials and public relations opportunities to educate the public about how cultured meat products are made and how home cooks can use them.
“The definition is the first opportunity to broaden the appeal and get people thinking about the fact that this is a product they want to try,” Ignaszewski said. “One of the most important parts of the definition of cultured meat is that it can look, cook and taste exactly like conventional meat – or in other words, that it is essentially the same as the beef, pork, chicken and fish that we eat use.”eat today.”
According to Ignaszewski, when consumers are offered a description of cultured meat that emphasizes that it looks, is prepared and tastes the same as conventional meat, the number of people who say they would like to try it almost doubles. With the product description, it is then important for companies to provide people with enough context to satisfy the curiosity about cultured meat that naturally arises in them.
“One of the questions is, ‘Where do the cells come from?’ And so, [an appealing definition] immediately informs people that the cells were humanely taken from an animal,” said Ignaszewski.
As Chief Operating Officer of Upside Foods, Amy Chen’s job includes finding ways to get more people, especially the 89 percent of Americans, interested in cultured meat Include meat in your diet. A priority for her right now is to show meat eaters that cultured meat can easily take center stage on their plates—whether it’s at a summer barbecue, a holiday meal, or as part of her family’s favorite recipe.
“It’s the part of the meal that everyone wants to plan and execute first,” Chen told The Daily Beast. “Ultimately, our impact [as a company that makes cultivated meat] depends on our ability to meet consumers where they are in terms of their expectations – their needs – for meat.”
Many experts in the alternative protein industry believe that failure to meet consumers’ taste expectations is a key reason for the early excitement over “bleeding” plant-based burgers and other products from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods subsided. “[Taste] is the main reason consumers have tried it [plant-based meat] once or twice I stopped buying it or didn’t return to the category,” Ignaszewski said.
Ignaszewski says this fact is top of mind for people in the meat industry as they move from a pre-market environment to a world where people can taste the food for themselves.
“I think the next phase for a lot of consumers is, ‘How do I start actually trying this?’” Chen said. “I think people have started to think about what [cultivated meat] is, and now there are many questions. How does it taste? How would I actually cook it?”
New things are exciting, but they can also be intimidating. According to Chen, we need time to get comfortable with innovations – especially in the food sector, where new product categories are rarely introduced. We might expect the phone in our pocket to get an upgrade every year, but the idea that “the food I eat today could change tomorrow” takes some getting used to, Chen said. “I think this is a new muscle for us and one that does that [producers] reflect on this as we consider the wider adoption of [cultivated meat].”
Currently, Americans’ willingness to try cultured meat is largely hypothetical—there are only two places in the country to try it (Bar Crenn in San Francisco and China Chilcano in Washington, DC). But as cultured meat companies bank on consumer acceptance –almost $3 billion There has been investment in the industry since its inception, with just under a third of that investment coming in 2022 – you can expect to hear more and more about the products and their claimed benefits in the years to come.
From the perspective of those in the industry, we have a lot to gain by replacing traditional steaks with alternative proteins, and they are eager to educate consumers about how cultured meat could be a boon to health Planet, animal life and ourselves. “It’s not just about that bite of chicken, it’s about choosing a better world,” Chen said. “And we want to invite people on this journey with us that will take months, years and even decades to reach its full potential.”
Only time will tell whether cultured meat can live up to its lofty promises, but its fans and advocates are doing everything they can to persuade consumers to consume it.