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Say ‘cultivated meat’ in Singapore, not ‘lab-grown’ and certainly not ‘cell-based’

September 25, 2023

A study by researchers from Singapore Management University (SMU), which was recently published in the Journal of Environment Psychology, found that ‘cultivated meat’ was the most preferred term and the one that was most significantly related to positive attitudes toward cultivated meat in Singapore – the world’s first country to approve its sale. This was followed by ‘lab-grown meat’, ‘animal-free meat’, ‘cultured meat’, ‘clean meat’, with the least preferred term being ‘cell-based meat’.

The study also explored what frames would appeal most to meat eaters in Singapore (past literature shows that framing of information can affect overall consumption perception and choice). It found that no single frame (of the five frames researchers used) was most effective in fostering acceptance – the exceptions were the ‘animal welfare’ frame and the ‘environmental benefits’ frame; these were found to increase acceptance among Buddhists. The other frames were ‘health benefits’; ‘nutritional value’; and ‘food self-sufficiency’.

The research team also found no consistent relationship between age, perceived naturalness, and the acceptance of cultivated meat.

These findings were part of a research titled Effects of Framing, Nomenclature, and Aversion to Tampering with Nature on Consumer Acceptance of Cultivated Meat in Singapore. The quantitative and qualitative studies, which involved 968 individuals in 2022 was conducted by SMU’s Professor of Communication Management Mark Chong; Professor of Psychology Angela Leung, research fellow Tricia Marjorie Fernandez and Psychology PhD student Shu Tian Ng.

On the practical implication of the study, Professor Chong, the main author of this research, said, “Our findings suggest that as there was no significant difference in the influence of the five frames on overall consumer acceptance, hence cultivated meat companies and the Singapore food authorities can consider using each of the five frames interchangeably to promote cultivated meat in Singapore. Furthermore, to foster consumer acceptance in Asian countries with significant Buddhist populations – such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand – cultivated meat companies may also want to use message frames focusing on how cultivated meat ‘reduces animal slaughter’ and ‘reduces global warming’.”

He added, “That ‘cultivated meat’, the preferred terminology, is insightful. Having a single, universally accepted term to describe this novel food technology not only helps to foster greater consumer understanding and acceptance but also reduces confusion about this new food source.”

Lastly, the study found an unexpected positive relationship between aversion to tampering with nature and perceived benefits of cultivated meat, as well as between aversion to tampering with nature and the willingness to consume cultivated meat. These findings are novel in research literature.

Professor Leung said, “Aversion to tampering with nature is an area that has received limited attention in the literature on cultivated meat acceptance. Past research shows that discomfort with tampering with nature has been found to strongly predict perceived risk, and increase resistance to novel technologies. Therefore, our current research offers the first evidence to shed light on the link between aversion to tampering with nature and attitude towards cultivated meat.”

She further explained, “It is possible that the questions measuring aversion to tampering with nature may have led our study respondents to recognize that the production of cultivated meat could be an act to tamper with nature, but it is done to mitigate some undesirable elements of conventional meat. This may make them perceive that conventional meat production has its downsides, thereby promoting a more positive attitude towards cultivated meat. More research is needed to examine this possibility.”

“Our findings also have a practical implication for cultivated meat companies’ marketing communication – they can consider highlighting not just the benefits of cultivated meat but also the undesirable elements of conventional meat in their messaging,” she added.

This is the third published study on cultivated meat by Professors Chong and Leung. The other two studies were published in international research journal, Appetite, in 2022 and 2023, respectively: A cross-country investigation of social image motivation and acceptance of lab-grown meat in Singapore and the United States; Higher well-being individuals are more receptive to cultivated meat: An investigation of their reasoning for consuming cultivated meat.

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