Cultivated meat’s consumer acceptance problem: Many Americans unwilling to try cultured protein, perceive it as less healthy, less tasty, according to Purdue University survey

“Consumers, without ever tasting this stuff, are like, ‘Yuck! No thanks!’ It is almost like the reaction is a … kind of revulsion” that is not based on experience, but rather a natural skepticism of new technologies and unfamiliar foods, said Joseph Balagtas, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, director of the university’s Center or Demand Analysis and Sustainability and the lead author for the center’s March Consumer Food Insights Report.

“All of us have foods that we do not like, even if we may not have tasted them,” as is likely the case for all 1,200 of the consumers surveyed by the center about their perceptions of cultivated meat​, which is only available in the US at a handful of restaurants, he said.

“We have evolved to think that unfamiliar things are not good to eat – they are going to be gross or they are going to make us sick,” he explained.

This is reinforced by the survey finding that the more “exotic” the meat, the less likely respondents were willing to try it in a restaurant – whether it was cultivated or conventional.

For example, while a third of respondents were unwilling to try cultivated chicken compared to 4% who were unwilling to try conventional chicken, even more – 69% – were unwilling to try cultivated octopus (vs. 44% who would not eat conventional octopus) and 84% who would not try cultivated zebra (compared to 80% who would not eat conventional zebra).

While rejecting the unfamiliar may be “natural,” it is also a “huge hurdle” for the burgeoning cultivated meat segment, Balagtas said.