Lab-grown meat and insect protein more appealing to younger people, survey finds
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Younger age groups are significantly more likely to be open to the idea of eating lab-grown meat, or insects, than older people, a survey has shown.
While these foods avoid many of the environmental and ethical impacts of rearing animals, they also have their detractors.
University of Reading researchers interviewed 23,000 consumers across 18 countries and asked how they felt about lab-grown foods – also known as cellular agriculture – and eating insects.
The survey showed that young adults are most open to consuming these products, with around half of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they would happily eat lab-grown foods. People up to the age of 44 are less also likely to totally reject the idea of eating insects.
Professor Richard Bennett led the research. He said: “This is an interesting result for the future of sustainable food. Young people tend to be the innovators in changing food habits. They are likely to influence older people around them to do the same, over time.
“All age groups want to know more about the health and safety implications of these new foods. If we want to see these new, sustainable protein sources taken up, it will be vital to have a comprehensive communication plan to address any remaining concerns.”
In a more in-depth follow-up survey of 2,400 consumers in six of the countries, the team of researchers found that most (58 per cent) respondents said this was because “the thought of eating insects is repulsive to me”.
Most (over 60 per cent) respondents said they might be motivated to eat insect-based foods because of potential environmental, sustainability and nutritional benefits, lower food cost, and if it tasted good.
The results also varied by country, with Israel leading at, overall, 49 per cent of people saying they are open to lab-grown foods. The Czech Republic was most cautious, at only 25 per cent of people saying they would eat food produced that way.
Israel’s respondents were least likely to accept insects as food, which is likely a reflection of the fact that locusts are the only edible insects considered kosher, in Judaism. The UK is relatively more accepting of insects, coming fourth, behind Denmark, Spain and The Netherlands.
A study from 2019 found that lab-grown meat will need to be produced using renewable energy for it to be more environmentally friendly than traditional cattle rearing.
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