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Is the future of meat palatable? Perceptions of in vitro meat as evidenced by online news comments

  • Linnea I Laestadius (a1) and Mark A Caldwell (a2)
Abstract
Abstract Objective

To understand current public perceptions of in vitro meat (IVM) in light of its potential to be a more environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional meat.

Design

A qualitative content analysis of the comments made on online news articles highlighting the development of IVM and the world’s first IVM hamburger in August 2013.

Setting

News article comment sections across seven US-based online news sources (The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Cable News Network and National Public Radio).

Subjects

Four hundred and sixty-two commenters who made eight hundred and fourteen publicly available online comments addressing IVM.

Results

Key themes in commenter perceptions of IVM included environmental and public health benefits, but also negative themes such as IVM’s status as an unnatural and unappealing food. Overall, the tone of comments was more negative than positive.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that while the environmental and public health motivations for developing and in turn consuming IVM resonate with some segments of the population, others find that reasoning both uncompelling and problematic. Concerns about IVM as an unnatural and risky product also appear to be a significant barrier to public acceptance of IVM. Supporters of IVM may wish to begin to develop a regulatory strategy for IVM to build public trust and explore messaging strategies that cast IVM as a new technology with benefits to individuals rather than primarily a solution to global challenges. Those in the public health nutrition field can make an important contribution to the emerging public discussion about IVM.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email llaestad@uwm.edu
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