Gen Z not ready to eat lab-grown meat

14th September 2020 | Eativity editors

Generation Z are the new kids on the block. As a cohort of five million people born between 1995 and 2015 which makes up 20 percent of the Australian population, they’re consumers to be reckoned with, often viewing new innovations with mistrust.

After conducting an online survey, researchers from the University of Sydney and Curtin University found that, despite having a great concern for the environment and animal welfare, 72 percent of Generation Z were not ready to accept cultured meat – a lab-grown meat alternative produced by in-vitro cell cultures of animal cells.

“Our research has found that Generation Z are not ready to accept cultured meat and view it with disgust,” says the study’s lead researcher, Dr Diana Bogueva.

“In-vitro meat and other alternatives can help to reduce greenhouse emissions and lead to better animal welfare conditions. But if cultured meat is to replace livestock-based proteins, it will have to emotionally and intellectually appeal to Gen Z consumers.”

Cell-based meat has the potential to reduce livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Gen Z’s concerns about cultured meat

The survey participants had several concerns relating to cultured meat, including an anticipated disgust, health and safety, and whether it’s a more sustainable option.

Societal concerns were also prevalent, with a large number of respondents worried that eating cultured meat would be in conflict with perceptions of gender and national identity.

“Gen Z value Australia’s reputation as a supplier of quality meat, and many view meat-eating as being closely tied to concepts of masculinity and cultural identity,” Dr Bogueva says.

Others viewed cultured meat as a conspiracy orchestrated by the rich and powerful and were determined not to be convinced to consume it.

“Generation Z are also unsure whether cultured meat is actually more environmentally sustainable, described by several respondents as potentially ‘resource consuming’ and not being ‘environmentally friendly’,” says Dr Bogueva.

The respondents were effectively divided into two groups: the “against” described cultured meat as “another thing our generation has to worry about” and questioned the motivations of those developing it, while supporters described it as “money invested for a good cause” and “a smart move” by people who are “advanced thinkers”.

“This generation has vast information at its fingertips but is still concerned that they will be left with the legacy of exploitative capitalism that benefits only a few at the expense of many,” says Dr Bogueva. “They have witnessed such behaviour resulting in climate change and are now afraid that a similar scenario may develop in relation to food, particularly as investors are pursuing broader adoption of cultured meat.”

Insects okay, lab-grown meat not so much, Gen Z says.

Gen Z’s five main attitudes towards cultured meat:

• 17 percent of respondents rejected all alternatives, including cultured meat, seeing it as chemically produced and heavily processed.
• 11 percent rejected all alternatives in favour of increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, saying they will stick with a vegetarian diet.
• 35 percent rejected cultured meat and edible insects but accepted plant-based alternatives because they “sounded more natural” and are “normal”.
• 28 percent believed cultured meat was acceptable or possibly acceptable if the technology could be mastered.
• 9 percent accepted insects but rejected cultured meat as too artificial and not natural.