Lab Meat: Survey Results

Last month we created a lab meat survey to take the temperature of both veg*ns and nonvegetarians about attitudes towards in vitro meat and to what extent animal harm played a role in resistance to eating it. I reviewed some of the results in the show but for a more detailed analysis, including graphs, keep reading after the jump.

The Survey

You can see all the questions and responses here on Surveymonkey. To summarize, we asked people about their food choices (whether they were meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans etc.) and then we asked if they would eat lab meat, why or why not, and if they would eat lab meat if it caused no more animal death than eating plant food and why or why not.

Who Participated?

Disclaimer here: we only had a convenience sample (people we could recruit via Facebook and Twitter and through our friends and fans) of 63 participants in our survey so it’s not representative.  Here is the breakdown. If you want to know how we defined the groups check out the survey.

Would vegans eat lab meat?

Well, for the most part, no. Here is the breakdown:

Looking through the data I also found that 

  • 32% of respondents mentioned disgust as a factor
  • 21% mentioned health as a factor
  • 5, or 17%, of the “no” “maybe” and “not sure” respondents mentioned being supportive of the idea for others

Here are some examples of things people said about why they gave their answer.

People who said yes:

If it doesn’t harm animals it’s vegan to me. I never had a problem with meat apart from the harm it causes.

It is an intelligent, compassionate choice! Someday we will look back and wonder why we were so cruel and wasteful using animals!

People who said no:

The ends don’t justify the means – animals are being used as raw materials for this big experiment, since their cells are being taken….That means confining and experimenting on animals in order to come up with something that’s supposedly ‘ethical’.

I find eating meat disgusting now and even if there were no cruelty involved (and that’s a big if!) there are still the health consequences to consider.

Animal use is required to develop “lab-grown meat”….consuming animal products, even from nonsentient sources, reinforces the paradigm of animals as our resources.


Most surprising of all (to me anyway) is that vegans did not change their minds about eating lab meat if there was no more animal death involved than plant food. Only one participant changed from “no” to “I don’t know” in that condition and there were no moves to “yes”, in fact one participant moved from “yes” to “I don’t know”!

In  the second question many vegans expressed doubt about the possibility of making lab meat without animal deaths, others expressed health concerns, others stated that the environmental impact would still be  too great to warrant it.

Some examples of “no” answers to question two:

I doubt it could achieve that, but if it could, I am sure that labs could grow edible plants with an even lower death rate.  I don’t see why I would want to promote the myth that humans need meat

…accidental death of insects etc while cultivating crops does not equate to deliberate deaths from growing something unnatural and unnecessary.

No…it’s fake food!

…I would still say no, but …I’m overall most in support of whatever reduces the culture of factory farming conscious animals. I think lab-grown meat could have incredible implications for animal treatment world-wide.

Would nonvegetarians eat lab meat?

Meat eaters seemed to be divided more evenly between the possible options:

Most meat eaters cited cost and taste as barriers to trying it. Some interesting responses from this subset:

it sounds a lot less disgusting than the ingredients of a mcdonald’s double cheeseburger, which i eat about once a week. of course, the lack of death and suffering involved in real meat, is also very appealing.

Again, it depends on how it tastes. If it was as savory as, or more savory than the animals I like to eat now, then I would consider switching entirely to lab grown meat…. If it’s just another form of tofu, then no thanks

If it looks like meat, smells like meat, and tastes like meat, it’s meat, and I’ll eat it!

A couple of pescetarians who don’t consider fish to be “meat” seemed as disgusted as vegans about eating lab grown meat:

I do not eat animals that live on land because it feels like cannibalism.

What happens when we stipulate that the lab meat has no more animal death than plant foods? Interestingly we see the same pattern in meat eaters that we did in the vegans except likely for a different reason. Only one person moves to “yes”.

Here is a typical (and blunt!) response to that question:

I don’t give a sh*t about the animal death rate.

You may have noticed that we chucked out the vegetarians. Well, we didn’t really have much of a sample considering there were only four of them but, for the curious, two said no, one said yes, one said maybe, and nobody changed their minds in the “low animal death” condition.

So, considering that this is a small sample I still have some confidence that the majority of vegans would not eat lab grown meat although a minority might endorse others eating it. Among meat eaters we do not have a representative sample but another survey has been done in the UK that found 62% of nonvegetarians said they would not eat lab meat.

What do these results mean for lab meat and its development? In my next blog I’ll speculate  about whether or not our attitudes towards this technology will reduce its potential impact and how it might help animals.

Avatar for Diana Fleischman

About Diana Fleischman

Dr Diana Fleischman co-hosted the show in 2011 and 2012, supplying some American irreverence. Media appearances include discussing atheism on BBC TV's "The Big Questions" and her research on the BBC World Service. She lectures in comparative psychology (the evolution of the mind) at the University of Portsmouth.

7 responses to “Lab Meat: Survey Results”

  1. Avatar for Diana Fleischman
    PythagoreanCrank (@PythaCrank) says :

    Back in the day I created a similar poll on (then) VeganRepresent to figure out why people were vegan. Vegans tried to squirm in all sorts of ways to avoid answering yes and I tried to corner them into an answer by addressing all ethical, environmental and health concerns. The results were very similar to yours:

    Would you eat replicator meat?
    YES: 70.97%
    MAYBE: 21.77%
    NO: 7.26%

    http://www.plantbasedpeople.com/showthread.php?t=7867

    Ultimately it was one of the many straws that broke this (ex)vegan’s back.

    • Avatar for Diana Fleischman
      Diana says :

      Hi PythaCrank,
      Very cool survey and I think your options are funny! It’s so interesting that vegans don’t seem to have changed much in the last 6 years. I might (if I have some time) load people’s responses into a word analysis program and see how much disgust based words come up.

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