Gen Z not ready to eat lab-grown meat, University of Sydney study finds

Gen Z are not ready to eat cultured meat but are concerned about the environmental impacts of traditional livestock farming, according to the new research.

As a cohort of 5 million people born between 1995-2015, Gen Z encompasses 20% of the Australian population and 2 billion people globally.

New research published by the University of Sydney and Curtin University in Frontiers in Nutrition, found that, despite having a great concern for the environment and animal welfare, 72% of Gen Z were not ready to accept cultured meat – defined in the survey as a lab-grown meat alternative produced by in vitro-cell cultures of animal cells, instead from slaughtered animals.

However, despite their lack of enthusiasm for the new meat alternative, 41% believed it could be a viable nutritional source because of the need to transition to more sustainable food options and improve animal welfare. More particularly, 59% of participants were concerned about the environmental impact of traditional livestock farming specifically, however many were not clear on what those impacts were nor did they understand the associated resource depletion.

Dr Diana Bogueva, lead researcher, University of Sydney’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, commented: “In-vitro meat and other alternatives are important as they can help to reduce greenhouse emissions and lead to better animal welfare conditions. However, if cultured meat is to replace livestock-based proteins, it will have to emotionally and intellectually appeal to the Gen Z consumers. It may be through its physical appearance, but what seems to be more important is transparency around its environmental and other benefits.”

The participants had several concerns relating to cultured meat, including an anticipated taste or disgust, health and safety, and whether it is a more sustainable option. Societal concerns were also prevalent throughout the study, 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 livestock and meat, and many views traditional meat eating as being closely tied to concepts of masculinity and Australian cultural identity,” she explained.

Others were concerned about animal welfare, whereas some viewed cultured meat as a “conspiracy orchestrated by the rich and powerful” and were determined not to be convinced to consume it. Several participants were also unsure whether cultured meat was an environmentally sustainable option.

Dr Bogueva said: “Gen 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’. 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 their 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. 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.”