Gen Z is skeptical about cultured meat sustainability claims

Nearly three-quarters of Generation Z – born between 1995 and 2015 – say they are not ready to try lab-grown meat, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Many of these consumers cited environmental impact as a concern.

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ra2studio | BigStock.com
ra2studio | BigStock.com

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Generation Z – born between 1995 and 2015 – say they are not ready to try lab-grown meat, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Many of these consumers cited environmental impact as a concern.

“Generation Z – also known as Gen Z – is absolutely fascinated with technology. They were practically born with electronic devices in their hands,” explained Dr. Diana Bogueva from the University of Sydney's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

“I thought that Gen Z would embrace all new technologies, even food technologies. But they have another way of thinking. They are also very keen on animal welfare and environmental issues and this distinguishes Gen Z from other generations.”

The research, conducted at the University of Sydney and Curtin University, surveyed 227 randomly-selected Australian-based members of Gen Z on their dietary preferences, how they felt about cultured meat and their preferences for meat alternatives.

Cultured meat – also known as lab-grown meat – is made using cells from animals that are grown in in a laboratory. Advocates say it is healthier and more sustainable than traditional animal proteins.

Other findings:

  • 41% of respondents believed cultured meat could be a viable nutritional source.
  • More than half (59%) of respondents were concerned about the environmental impact of traditional agriculture, however the results showed a lot of confusion about what those impacts were.
  • 17% of respondents rejected all meat alternatives, including cultured meat, seeing it as chemically produced and heavily processed.
  • Several respondents described cultured meat as potentially “resource consuming” and not being “environmentally-friendly.”
  • 11% rejected meat alternatives in favor of increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, saying they will stick with a vegetarian diet.
  • 35% rejected cultured meat and edible insects, but accepted plant-based alternatives because they "sounded more natural" and are "normal."
  • 28% believed cultured meat was acceptable or possibly acceptable if the technology could be mastered.

“Gaining widespread acceptance of cultured meat will be a difficult process because Gen Z would prefer not to try it. They’d much rather eat vegan, vegetarian, or simply high-quality meat or poultry,” Bogueva said.

“If they are interested in reducing their meat consumption, I believe they are more interested in substituting fruits and vegetables over a cultured meat product. Younger consumers – like Gen Z and Millennials – will continue to eat meat, but they’re trying to eat less of it.”

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