If cultivated meat is marketed and sold as pet food first, people are less likely to buy it and eat it when products are then marketed for human consumption, a new report published today by global food awareness organisation, ProVeg International, suggests.
The report, called “Cultivated Pet Food for Cats and Dogs”, is based on a survey of 1,000 UK residents who were asked about their perception of cultivated meat as pet food, compared to cultivated meat as human food.
“People are potentially put off by the idea of eating cultivated meat if they first learn that it’s fed to pets and then later told that it’s sold as human food as well,” Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr, Director of Corporate Engagement at ProVeg, said.
“The food industry needs to take this into consideration to ensure that cultivated meat makes the maximum impact on the market when regulatory approvals are granted,” she said.
What the survey found
When presented with a definition of cultivated meat (including a simple technical description and expected benefits), 47% of pet owners with cats and 48% of those with dogs said they would probably or definitely feed cultivated meat to their pet, showing that there is already a strong interest in cultivated meat for pet food.
But the report highlights a clear need to frame cultivated meat as human food first. The report highlights the following findings:
The results show that portraying cultivated meat as pet food before portraying it as human food could reduce the acceptance of the products by 10 percentage points.
A possible explanation is that pet food is usually seen as inferior to human food, with conventional pet food typically being composed of the remaining carcass (bones, organs, blood, beaks, etc.) of slaughtered animals after the meat has been removed for human consumption.
However, regardless of the framing used, the report notes that respondents do not necessarily expect cultivated meat to be affordable, easy to access, healthy, and safe.
“Considering that cellular agriculture offers the opportunity to transform our food system for the better, governments have a major role to play in accelerating progress in the field, for instance by funding open-access research to address knowledge gaps and building national cellular-agriculture ecosystems. As cellular agriculture progresses, it is important to provide more scientific evidence on health and safety aspects of cultivated meat in order to increase people’s positive perceptions of the product,” the report concludes.
Climate role of cultivated meat
Cultivated meat, which is real meat obtained by cell cultivation rather than breeding, raising, and slaughtering animals, has the potential to replace conventional meat and reduce conventional meat’s massive environmental impact. Animal-based foods are currently responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gases.
But reducing meat’s overall impact also applies to pet food. With 470 million pet dogs and around 370 million pet cats on the planet, pet food is estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impact of meat production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates, and pesticides.
Cultivated meat is still to be approved in any market globally, except Singapore, but the US FDA recently made progress in setting out its’ regulatory requirements.