Do you prefer your meat to be cultured? No, not the kind of culture that separates ground beef from filet mignon—we’re talking about the kind of culture that is lab-grown. Even if it seems like science fiction with the likes of the Beyond and Impossible burger now available at fast food restaurants, a recent study proves that we are just as hungry for lab-grown meat and willing to pay more for it.
The technology behind the newest types of fake meat go beyond the tofu or seitan of yesteryear. There is even fake meat so realistic that it has all the juices and appearance of real meat. This type of meat is called cultured meat, and it was recently put to the test alongside regular (or conventional) meat in the Netherlands. Cultured meat was pioneered by the scientists at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Cultured beef is scientifically created from the stem cells from cow’s muscle tissue. The same technology is being applied to making other types of meat including fish, pork, and chicken. Even though the cultured meat may have the appearance and a similar taste and texture, some people are reluctant to eat such an engineered product. In the taste test, the objective was not to see if the meats tasted similar or could fool people, but how the best way to present such an engineered product to the diners.
The cultured meat was taste-tested with 193 adult participants. A questionnaire was completed about their perceptions about cultured meat and how society could benefit from having less carbon footprint caused by the raising of livestock. After the questionnaire, they were offered two pieces of hamburger meat, and it was labeled either cultured or conventional.
The participants were actually tricked, however. Both pieces of meat were conventional. The participants were more accepting of cultured meat because of the prior information and impressions they had before the tasting about the benefits of cultured meat. When asked if they would pay more for cultured meat, 58% of people in the study reported that they would pay more for cultured meat. They said they would be willing to pay more than 37%.
However, cultured beef is still highly processed, and some of the lab-grown meats can have more cholesterol than the real thing. It’s definitely evolving and reaching a point where it may be widely accepted and could even exceed the nutritional profile of the real thing one day. For now, remember these fake meats aren’t necessarily any healthier than eating real meat, and take the idea of cultured meat with a grain of salt.
Rolland, Nathalie C.M., et al. “The Effect of Information Content on Acceptance of Cultured Meat in a Tasting Context.” PLOS One, 16 Apr. 2020, doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0231176.