Consumers' Perception of Ethics and Lab-Cultured Proteins

Schelby Beach
Undergraduate (Social Sciences)
Dr. Annie Specht
Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership

Many consumers across the world are searching for alternatives to conventional proteins such as beef, pork, and poultry as our population grows and the ability to feed people comes into question. Cultured meat, or laboratory-developed proteins, could impact a large sector of industries and people such as livestock producers and processors, food safety workers, and food scientists. Previous research has shown that livestock producers and consumers view cultured meat negatively due to a lack of knowledge. Values and ethics come into question and consumers may make assumptions, with or without evidence, about the outcomes of cultured meat, which may include improving the environment with less greenhouse gas emissions, ethics of slaughter and harvest, the rising cost of meat production cost globally, and greater demand for animal proteins driving higher prices. In this study, I will examine social media conversations and describe how ethics play a key role in consumers' and producers' perceptions of this technology. Using behavioral reasoning theory, I will conduct a content analysis of Twitter conversations about meat substitutes to identify beliefs and values and the reasoning and evidence for those values, which may allow us to infer their future actions. This will allow both sides of the industry to develop marketing strategies for how to properly approach the topic of ethics within the media.