We humans are resistant to unfamiliar things.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t change, and one of the ways in which consumers will change their mind is consistent and repeated exposure to a new idea or concept. The more a consumer hears an idea, the newness and unfamiliarity wears off and it becomes normalized.
It happens all the time in technology. Fifteen years ago, most of us would have been uncomfortable jumping in a complete stranger’s car to catch a ride somewhere. Nowadays – pandemic concerns aside – most everyone would not think it’s weird to hail a stranger’s car using a ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
Chris Bryant, an independent food system researcher who also acts as the Director of Social Science for the Cellular Agriculture Society, says that this comfort through familiarity will also work with cultured meat.
“We see this kind of familiarity effect going on, both in quantitative and qualitative research,” said Bryant in the latest episode of the Red to Green podcast series focused on alt protein and consumer acceptance. “So on the quantitative front, as I mentioned, we can see just quite a strong correlation between familiarity and acceptance. People who have a more familiarity or more likely to say that they’d eat it.”
Those that adopt something early often have a strong personal reason or belief that drives behavior change. With cultivated meat, that reason is likely a concern for animal welfare.
“In terms of their impact on people’s purchase intentions and actual food, decision-making,” said Bryant “it seems like there are other benefits which could be more important to highlight. Say for example it seems like those earliest adopters are most enthusiastic about the kind of ethical benefits animals and the environment.”
But for many, they aren’t motivated enough by animal welfare to change behavior, especially when it comes to something as new and different from cellular agriculture. For these more resistant types, Bryant believes cultivated meat companies need to sell them on how this new type of meat will benefit them.
“For the more skeptical consumers, they need to see that there’s actually a benefit to themselves. So what can cultured meat offer them that meat from animals can’t?”
Bryant thinks there are a couple benefits companies can focus on to convert those looking for personal benefits from cultured meat. First, they should emphasize how much cleaner meat is from cellular agriculture is compared to traditional animal agriculture products.
“That serves to highlight that meat produced in this way, unlike meat from animals, doesn’t have these pathogens in there, doesn’t have traces of antibiotics and other nasty stuff that you get when you chop up an animal,” said Bryant.
They could also focus on a better nutritional profile.
“This is something that a lot of cultured meat producers are considering,” said Bryant. “Can we produce cultured meat that doesn’t have saturated fat? Unlike meat from animals. Can we improve it by offering other micronutrients and vitamins in a way that we can add things to cultured meat in a way that we can’t add things to meat from animals?”
You can listen to the full conversation with Chris Bryant in Marina Schmidt’s Red to Green podcast by clicking play below, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. If you like this episode, make sure to subscribe!
You can also read the transcript below.
Chris, you’re also working with companies. How are you working with them? What are you doing? With whom are you working?
Yeah, that’s right. So I just recently finished my PhD at the University of Bath and I’m now consulting through my company, Bryant Research Ltd, with a number of nonprofits and also alternative protein companies in the animal food replacement space. I’ve done work with the charity Viva!, uh, The Good Food Institute and also Faunalytics.
And I’ve been working with companies as well. I’ve worked with The Better Meat co, also Aleph Farms, the cultured meat company in Israel and the cultured dairy company Formo. Previously known as Legendairy, a cultured dairy company in Germany.
So my work with these nonprofits and companies is generally to do with identifying the best kind of markets and messaging for the strategies for speeding up dietary change for alternative protein companies. It’s who’s going to be buying their products and cutting down on meat. And for charities that can be, you know, who to reach out to with advocacy and what kind of messages to put in front of people that they will wake up and change their behaviors.
So Chris, give us a little overview of how the current state of consumer acceptance is. What is the research saying? How many people are actually up to eating cultured meat?
Yeah. So, the research is showing that in most markets we have about one in five people very enthusiastic about cultured meat that they would buy it with you know, few conditions and little other information. Whereas others can be quite skeptical. They might be later adopters.
They’re also known as laggards. And importantly, currently most people actually don’t know about cultured meat. So most people aren’t aware that this is something that exists. We also see that increased awareness is something that’s related to increased acceptance. So for people who are more familiar with cultured meats, they’re more likely to say that they would eat it.
That’s something encouraging in terms of the rate of acceptance kind of changing over time as people got more familiar with the product
Hmm. I’ve been talking with, all of my friends about cultivated meat, obviously, and they’ve been hearing enough of it. And one of my good friends, I would call him very open-minded, but he was actually against it, the first time that he heard of it. And he said, after hearing about it, the second, third, fourth, or fifth time, he warmed up to the idea.
He wouldn’t have been fond of it at first, but it was important for him to be repeatedly exposed to the messaging and the benefits of it to then actually become familiar with it and loosen up this, this skepticism around it, is that also reflected in your research?
Yeah, absolutely. We see this kind of familiarity effect going on, both in quantitative and qualitative research. So on the quantitative front, as I mentioned, we can see just quite a strong correlation between familiarity and acceptance. People who have a more familiarity or more likely to say that they’d eat it.
And then also in focus groups, many times focus groups observe exactly what you’re describing. You know, it’s very similar to what we see in other areas as well. There are parts of psychology demonstrating this kind of mere exposure effect, right.
Where you will develop a more positive attitude to something just merely by encountering it more frequently. I think another important part of that picture, as well is the social transmission or the social construction we could say, of what is edible and also what is ethical.
So these are socially constructed ideas. There are things which humans could eat, but which we don’t consider edible. In terms of just being normal to eat, right? And so one thing that that’s something that’s going to change. And then the other part is the ethical part, where, as I mentioned, many people are kind of, post-hoc justifying the killing of animals for meat because they want the meat.
But once you have a system where you can have the meat and you don’t have to kill the animals, that motivation behind the motivated reasoning kind of melts away. And so this could, I think, pave the way for people to have a more honest, ethical conversation about killing animals for food. If we can say, if we don’t, you know, if the conversation is not to say killing animals for food, getting animals for meat is bad, and therefore you’ve got to stop eating meat. But rather to say killing animals, meat is bad and therefore we need to move towards producing meat in a different way. I think that’s much more acceptable to a lot of people.
So the mere exposure effect seems to allude to the importance of companies communicating about it early and a lot. But the question is, well, how do they communicate about it? As you just said, we can go the route of talking about the ethics. We can talk about the sustainability aspects, probably various other routes.
And in the end, most food is talked about actually in terms of texture and features, benefits directly experienced by the consumer when they eat it. So based on the research that you’ve also reviewed, what is the best route to take, to communicate the benefits of cultivated meat?
So there were some conditions, as you mentioned, which will be just necessary preconditions for people wanting to eat cultured meat. They’ll need to find it to be a good taste, acceptable in terms of price, and also be confident that it’s safe by regulations or, or whatever else. In terms of communicating about the benefits there, yeah, there’s an interesting thing going on here where most people find benefits to animals and to a slightly lesser extent to the environment, to be the most obvious benefits of cultured meat, right? These are the things that everyone kind of gets it. We’re making meat without animals and therefore that’s good for the animals.
In terms of their impact on people’s purchase intentions and actual food, decision-making, it seems like there are other benefits which could be more important to highlight. Say for example it seems like those earliest adopters are most enthusiastic about the kind of ethical benefits animals and the environment, as I mentioned.
But for the more skeptical consumers, they need to see that there’s actually a benefit to themselves. So what can cultured meat offer them that meat from animals can’t? And there are a couple of ways that companies can go with that. The first, as I mentioned is to talk about the purity and cleanliness of cultured meat.
This was part of the thinking behind the term clean meat which has kind of come and gone in the industry. But that serves to highlight that meat produced in this way, unlike meat from animals, doesn’t have these pathogens in there, doesn’t have traces of antibiotics and other nasty stuff that you get when you chop up an animal.
Another thing that’s discussed in terms of offering consumers like personal, tangible benefits is nutritional enhancements. And this is something that a lot of cultured meat producers are considering. Can we produce cultured meat that doesn’t have saturated fat? Unlike meat from animals. Can we improve it by offering other micronutrients and vitamins in a way that we can add things to cultured meat in a way that we can’t add things to meat from animals?
So providing these kind of tangible personal benefits, I think is going to be important in communicating about cultured meats.
Hmm. You know, I always find it quite interesting to take examples from related fields. And I have a background in technology history. I found that, regarding bicycles, for example, most people think that this is just something that was invented. And then people just said, oh, amazing, a bicycle, and started using bicycles, but the invention of a bicycle was actually a 19 year long tedious process in which the branding and the reaction of consumers had just as much of an influence on how it developed as the technical part of it.
So there was one interesting development during this 19 year long process where the bicycle industry with tires wanted to promote these bicycles to women specifically. Because they were saying, well, it’s more safe and therefore you should be using that. they wanted to get this market, but what ended up happening is that back in the day, men were saying, I don’t want a bicycle that is for a woman. I want an adventurous bicycle. And what was supposed to increase the market share was actually decreasing the market share of the safer bicycle with tires.
And I find it interesting to see these backlash effects, well intended. Do you see that something like this could happen by over focusing on selling to vegans in that way or selling to people based on morals?
Yeah, excellent, excellent question. I think there has been a kind of strange obsession with the reaction of vegetarians and vegans to cultured meat. I think a part of that is just that people like to cross-examine a vegetarian, right, see if they’re going to be consistent with the given reasons. You know, now we can have meat, but it didn’t come from an animal, and what do you think of that? And it’s quite intuitive, I think for reporters to think, this is an issue which presumably vegetarians care about. But actually the consumer data tends to tell a bit of a different story.
Vegetarians and vegans often understand the benefits of cultured meat and might even be excited about them, but actually most meat avoiders are not really interested in eating cultured meat. For most people who have given up meat already, they’re not seeing cultured meat necessarily as a way to start eating meat again. But rather we see that the most enthusiastic cultured meat future consumers are the heavy meat-eaters of today. So unlike other animal product replacements for example, plant-based meats, we tend to see that plant based products, they can be more appealing to females, and also are more appealing to vegetarians, vegans people who are at least flexitarian you know, meat, reducing. Whereas cultured meat on the other hand seems to be most appealing to males and also to heaviest meat eaters.
And I think that that is a good thing, firstly, because we don’t really have anything to gain by selling cultured meat to vegetarians. What we really are interested in doing is displacing demand for meat from animals, right? And so going after meat eaters is what you want to be doing. But more importantly than that, perhaps as you mentioned, we don’t want cultured meat to come to be seen as a product for vegetarians in a way that some of these plant-based products in the past may have suffered, the vegetarian option. Well, if I’m a meat eater, that’s just not for me. And so I think that cultured meat being meat and being marketed as such and in that way is going to be the best in terms of appealing to those heavy meat-eating consumers.
I’m gonna say something that’s actually gonna be published later during the podcast So in a future episode, Jack Bobo will talk about it’s not just a topic of influencing consumer acceptance, but also influencing the whole mood, the whole environment in the industry.
So specifically how corporates perceive it and how willing corporates are to adopt the technology. And my personal opinion is that from innovation history and technology history, we can learn that big corporations and established players have an incredible power to stall innovation. And so it’s super important to go for collaboration and Jacob Bobo is arguing against clean meat and against talking about any benefits against conventional meat. So it’s cleaner because conventional meat is dirty because it creates an atmosphere of friction and it reduces the potential of collaboration.
What would you respond to that?
I think that there definitely is something to be said for that there’s a lot of cultured meat companies who have investments from, or kind of partnerships with conventional meat producers. And of course those companies are incredibly important in terms of accessing the meat markets. It’s definitely better to have those companies kind of with you rather than against you.
But at the same time, I think that whether there are benefits to a cultured meat over conventional meat we need to be strident in highlighting them and showing that there are reasons to want to move away from conventional meat production.
It might not be a particularly strategic thing for a company trying to make partnerships but I think that it is for us to be vocal in our criticisms of the animal production methods today.
Are there differences in the populations that are interested in cultivated meat? So you were alluding to men. Did you see other cultural differences that influence it?
Yeah, there were a few sort of demographic factors which predict higher acceptance of cultured meat. As you mentioned, we tend to see slightly higher acceptance amongst men compared to women. And we tend to see higher acceptance amongst heavier meat eaters, compared to vegetarians and vegans. And there’s a few other things that we can see as well.
Generally, younger consumers are more open to eating cultivated meat compared to consumers who are, perhaps, a bit more set in their ways with respect to meat consumption in older groups. We can also see that people living in cities and people who have higher levels of education, people who tend to be left leaning politically, these are all groups which tend to be more open to eating cultured meat.
So that was kind of painting a picture of the kinds of early, early adopters of this technology, which we might expect to see.
What are the most common concerns and criticisms or barriers to acceptance?
As you mentioned, many people have concerns about naturalness and kind of safety of cultured meat. Many people have this suspicion really, of science being involved in their food. This is something that we’ve seen with respect to other food technologies as well.
I think that regulators definitely need to have robust processes in place in order to give consumers the confidence that cultured meat they can buy is going to be safe and nutritious for them. And companies need to be transparent in their communications and also clear and highlighting the benefits of cultured meat over conventional meat.
I think that it’s likely that the kind of level of concern on these topics will wane over time. Of course this is going to be something where the concern is strongest, where the familiarity is lowest. And then once people have the opportunity to try cultured meat for themselves, or perhaps they know people who have tried it, it’s been on the market for a few years. It’s going to simply seem a bit less strange, which I think is at the core of a lot of those kinds of intuitive concerns.
So I think one thing that we need to address is that consumer attitudes are not linear, so they can also turn around and change. Just as we see with, for example, vaccines becoming a more polarized issue and people previously not having strong opinions, actually we’re having positive opinions, maybe changing their mind about them.
How much do you see the topic of potential fake news, of conspiracy theories, of scandals being an issue for the industry? How much do you think is crisis communication something that cultured meat companies should invest in early?
So there’s there’s a few studies which have looked at kind of technology adoption of similar technologies or technologies which seem to have a lot of promise for mankind, but have had some problems with our adoption. The Sentience Institute has done a wonderful series of case studies looking at GM foods, biofuels and also nuclear power. So, these are three examples of things where there’s really a lot of potential for good to be done on some of the major issues that we’re facing today. And yet they have kind of had problems with respect to adoption and public perception and so on.
One of the lessons from those studies is that if there are safety issues, they’re perceived as much worse if they relate to things that people already had safety concerns about. I do think that it’s worth companies investing in having solid plans for communicating about cultured meat technology. And in particular we do need to be aware that some consumers will be pushing back against… well, first of all, we won’t be able to sell to everybody straight away. There will be some people who need to take time to come around to the idea. And also we can see that initially the quantity is going to be lower and the price is going to be higher than for conventional meats. And so we kind of have the space to focus the sales, just on those people who are enthusiastic about buying it.
And hoping that we don’t have, kind of major pushback from consumers who are not so enthusiastic about the technology. You mentioned vaccines and people sort of becoming skeptical about vaccines in particular through conspiracy theories and so on. Interestingly there is actually some research that shows rejection of cultured meat is associated with conspiratorial thinking.
So it does seem that the kind of person who might be an anti-vaxxer might also find themselves being an anti-cultured-meater. But yeah, I suppose we shall see.
We even have the word for it now. An “anti-cultured-meater.”
Yeah. If, if I just coined the phrase, I feel I could have done better.
So how does the consumer acceptance vary in different countries and how’s it influenced by religion?
Yeah, really interesting, really interesting question about religion. First of all, I’d say that we do see pretty solid markets for cultured meat products in many countries around the world. We’ve done studies in European countries, in America and in Asian countries as well. And we see that in all of those countries, there’s a decent number of people who already say that they’d be willing to eat cultured meat.
There are a few religions around the world that have, kind of, specific prescriptions about their adherence, meat consumption; Buddhism and Hinduism. Often people who follow these religions actually don’t eat meat. And for these people, these could be some of the vegetarians who we discussed before, who may now have a source of ethically produced meat, but it didn’t require an animal to die. So in those religions, as I understand it, there actually aren’t explicit rules about meat consumption, but many of the adherence interpreted it as requiring vegetarianism. And so they, they do that. Presumably for those people, there’s some room for maneuver if they wanted to change their diet.
And more specifically than that, and more kind of in the weeds of the religious texts, I suppose, are Islam and Judaism. So these are two other religions with specific rules about meat consumption and explicitly in this case, we have upwards of a billion Muslims around the world who are required to eat Halal meat only, which has been slaughtered in a ritual slaughter by having a throat slit. And it’s something like a similar process of ritual slaughter for producing kosher meat in the Jewish faith. And in both of these cases, it’s kind of interesting because the religious rules around slaughtering animals for meat appear to have come from a concern for animal welfare, right? At the time when these rules were developed, if you want to kill an animal, slitting its throat was probably the quickest way, and least suffering way of doing that.
And of course at the times when these rules were developed those who developed them didn’t necessarily anticipate the creation of meat which could be separated entirely from animals. So you kind of come to an interesting impasse where cultured meat has not come from a slaughtered animal.
And yet it may now not be compliant with some aspects of those religious requirements, which were kind of to do with animal welfare in the first place. So it is likely the cultured meat will be acceptable in a Halal and Kosher forms. It is feasible to make cultured meat, which kind of ticks those boxes. According to religious scholars in the area, we will be able to have Kosher cultured meat and Halal cultured meats. Although the other question which comes up with respect to those two dietary requirements is about pork. Pork is, not allowed in Judaism and Islam. And the question becomes, could it be, could you have kind of kosher bacon if it was made by a cultured meat as opposed to taken from a pig? I think that the jury is still out on that one.
So in your research, you are also mentioning reasons why people don’t care about reducing their meat consumption. Could you give a brief overview of the reasons why?
As I experienced the problem, myself, meat is just quite nice to eat, right? And so the idea of giving up meat, in many people, produces an automatic kickback reaction. The ones who reflectively give reasons justifying eating meats, they don’t want to come to the conclusion that they’ll stop eating meat. And so all of their reasoning and thinking about the issue kind of works backwards from there. So this is called in psychology, motivated reasoning, and yeah, it’s a very well demonstrated phenomenon. And in particular, with respect to meat consumption it has been shown in a couple of experiments.
One really neat experiment, which demonstrates this well, is this set up where they ask people about the moral value of cows; whether they think that cows deserve moral consideration. And there are two conditions in the experiment. In the first condition, people are given some nuts to snack on before they answer the question. And in the other condition, people are given beef jerky. And perhaps you can guess the punchline here. The people who were given beef jerky were less likely to say that cows deserved moral consideration and can feel pain and so on. So actually the food that they had been randomly assigned to eat changed their beliefs about cows.
So it’s this quite remarkable process and we can see similar things as well. People are more likely to order a vegetarian option if menus say cow or pig instead of beef or pork. Right? The idea that this is actually coming from a dead animal, it’s kind of gross to most people. And you know, we have a phrase in English that nobody likes to see how the sausage is made.
Definitely the case with respect to actual sausages.
Totally. And I think you also mentioned the scale in sensitivity.
Yeah, absolutely. And this is the idea that basically humans are not very good at processing very large numbers of things.
We kind of become insensitive to changes in scale beyond a certain quite low point. And actually it can end up kind of working against us. So there’s an experiment which demonstrates this phenomenon where people are asked how much money they would be willing to donate to save some birds from an oil spill.
And there were a few different conditions where people are asked how much they’d be willing to donate to save. In one condition, 200 birds in one condition, 2000, and in one condition, 20,000. Right? So each condition it’s like an order of magnitude more birds that you could save. And what they found is that people didn’t differ between those conditions in terms of how much they were willing to donate.
So the 20,000 birds was no more compelling than the 200 birds in terms of how much people were willing to give to alleviate the suffering. Right? If we’re being rational about it, it ought to be a hundred times more compelling, but it wasn’t. And we can see this as well in some kind of charity appeals where charities you know, are aware of this effect, and will often use marketing materials and so on which refer to a single identifiable victim.
It’s much more effective to talk about one young girl whose life has been affected by malaria say than it is to talk about however many millions of people die of malaria each year. It becomes a statistic rather than something people can relate to.
And as a result of that, we can’t really grasp the scale of what goes on in animal agriculture. And so as a result of that, we can’t really connect with the appropriate level of urgency, just isn’t available to us emotionally.
So when we look at consumer attitudes could you, before we get into the details and the results give an overview of the scientific field, how far are we in researching consumer attitudes on cultivated meat?
Yeah, well, this is actually an area that’s come a long way in the past few years. I started my PhD on this topic in 2016 and just finished last year in 2020. And in that time there’s been dozens of studies on this topic in different countries and different experiments about naming and explanations and so on.
So the fields come quite a long way in the past five years or so. And actually we’re starting to understand quite well the kinds of markets that are out there and the kinds of messages that we ought to be using to get consumers excited about cultured meat.
So we were talking about other related fields where technologies have been vilified by the public and where the negative aspects tend to be very prevalent versus the positive possibilities possibly downplayed in the media. And maybe you can share some of the insights from related fields like GMOs or biofuels or nuclear energy.
So yes, The Sentience Institute has a great series of case studies where they look at GMO’s biofuels and nuclear power which are all technologies which could have huge benefits, but they have faced significant problems with their adoption. And so we can really learn some lessons from those kinds of industries.
And some of the biggest from this work for the alternative protein space were to be transparent in the developments and the communications, not to develop the perception that they’re being secretive or hiding things from the public. To aim, to be somewhat flexible in their technological approach.
And in particular, you know, we see now many cultured meat companies, which are focusing on a specific part of the process. Some companies are specializing in producing cultured fats, for example, only. Others are leaning into developing the bioreactors. And it’s suggested that this kind of ecosystem, where there are different companies providing kind of different components of products and networks, provides a more robust ecosystem overall; compared to just a series of vertically integrated companies that are all trying to do everything in house.
Obviously then that gives you a kind of situation where if one of those companies fails, they are only one part of the network and there may be others which can provide the same inputs. Also, I think that a big thing is to focus on communicating the benefits and not to spend lots of time on very technical refutations of perceived issues and drawbacks. They found that with respect to the GM foods, when companies were putting out these very detailed, scientific explanations of why the technology was safe that was not able to be understood by most people and primarily just really drew attention to the safety issue, right? So it’s kind of thought that in terms of communications, it’s better to spend more time communicating the potential benefits than giving very detailed refutations to, and, lots of air time to perceived issues.
Yes, we have this very thin line that we need to walk between not being secretive and not oversharing and giving TMI (too much information) on the wrong point. You know, there is a belief in the industry that if you just give people all the information and you are completely transparent, that people will be like “Oh, well, it’s, good, ot’s safe”. But at the same time in your research it was shown that the focus on high tech or a technology focused way of communicating, it’s actually turning people off.
And as far as I remember, it’s actually one of the worst ways to communicate about cultured meat. So how do we strike the line between, we should be transparent about the technology, but talking about technology is the most unsexy thing to do.
Right… Yeah. I think that has to do with the extent to which people feel like they understand the technology. And if it’s kind of explained in terms that are not understandable then that contributes to this sense of like, this is something that I don’t properly understand or can’t like assess whether I should be eating it.
And people are gonna feel that way. If it’s communicated in a way that they can understand there’s actually a great example of how this can happen in I guess science communication in general. Have you heard the thing about dihydrogen monoxide? It is a bit of a meme on the internet of like, this is a substance, which is found in all cancers and like an abundance of this will cause you to die. And of course it’s water, right? Dihydrogen monoxide is, is H2O water. And the idea of course, is that if you explain anything in these kinds of technical terms, you can make it seem scarier than it really is.
So, yeah, I think that’s definitely something to bear in mind when talking about food technology in general. I think that we need to communicate it in a way that people feel they can understand the basic idea and understand enough to know what they’re eating, but obviously we don’t expect most people to understand how to make cultured meat.
So to come to the ending questions if you would have $50 million, in what businesses would you invest it in?
You mean another $50 million? I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding.
A third $50 million. Can you, can you give me one of them?
I think that food technology is a very exciting area right now. I think that we’re kind of coming up on a number of tipping points with respect to food production because this is something which is very social. I think that there is a point when enough people get on board, everyone will get on board and it will kind of go in this S shape where we suddenly see very fast adoption.
And there will be some people at the end of the laggards who need substantial kind of social pressure to, to change their habits. But I do think that there’s going to be that kind of social tipping point and coupled with really, actually, more serious attention being given to the environmental harms from animal agriculture.
I think it’s only a matter of time before governments have to start doing something about this. And those two factors combined, I think, make alternative proteins, cultured meat and also plant-based meats and fermentation based and all of the other technologies which are looking to replace animal products. I think that they are looking like a pretty good investment now.
Regarding food, sustainability or agriculture, what is an unusual opinion that you hold that many people would disagree with?
A really interesting thing in alternative proteins is insects. This is something that’s kind of spoken about sometimes alongside cultured meat and plant-based meat as like, you know, another thing that we could eat instead of environmentally damaging meat is insects.
Now there is some evidence to suggest that it is less intensive in terms of environmental outcomes to produce insects compared to other animals. Although there’s also some evidence to suggest that for the most part, Western consumers don’t really want to eat just like whole unprocessed insects, like it might be common in parts of Asia, for example. But some more kind of feasible products seem to be things like cricket flour, like these processed kind of products.
The issue is that the processing involved can be very energy intensive. To the point where be the case that insects producers end up wiping out the efficiency gains in terms of the extra processing that they need to do to make it acceptable for consumers. So that’s definitely something to bear in mind and I think be skeptical about insects.
The other part of that is an interesting ethical part. Basically killing animals for food, you can get about 200 meals from one cow. Whereas one chicken will give you just two meals, right? So in order to get the same amount of meat, you need to kill a hundred times as many chickens.
Because chickens are smaller and less similar to humans, I guess, and so harder to empathize with, they tend to be treated much worse in agriculture. And in much higher numbers. So, it’s actually quite a bit more ethical to eat beef than it is to eat chicken as a result of that. In terms of the amount of suffering associated with each.
Now my view is that it’s likely that insects are going to be to chickens as chickens are to cows in this kind of equation. And that by moving to eating even smaller animals, we’re going to multiply that kind of ethical problem again. And if we move towards farming and eating insects that could actually represent a step backwards ethically in terms of the numbers of animals that we’re, rearing for food.
And I get that it’s a little esoteric to think about insect suffering. But you know, I think that it’s something anyone can bring themselves to relate to. If you think, you wouldn’t want to find your kid picking the legs off a spider or something, you would think that’s kind of mean. And like that, you know, like, we’re speaking about the scale insensitivity before; you would need potentially trillions of insects in order to produce like a decent quantity of food globally.
So yeah, I think that the ethical implications of that could be pretty dire.
Mm. Yeah. And then probably it’s also important to add to that the consideration of how environmentally unfriendly the meat is because with the environmental damage there’s another layer of harm added to it. So as beef is environmentally even less sustainable it does get a few minus points again and chickens are probably more sustainable in terms of conversion from input calories to output calories.
So it’s a, it’s a whole complicated mess. Let’s just, let’s just stop this. Let’s just move on. Let’s go plant-based and cultured and then we don’t need to worry about this.
That’s right. Yeah, we can we needn’t be counting the billions of animals. If we just move away from eating them altogether. Uh, I think that’s going to be best.
Well, Chris, how can listeners connect with you?
I am on LinkedIn is probably the kind of professional space that I’m most active. You can find me on LinkedIn, if you search for Chris Bryant. I guess I have a LinkedIn URL that I could.
Oh, well, we will put Chris’s LinkedIn profile and contact details on our website, redtogreen.solutions. And you will find everything if you click on this episode.
Awesome. Thank you. Yeah, that’s much better than me trying to read out all of the numbers in my URL here.
Thanks Chris, for being on Red to Green.
Thanks so much, Marina. It was a pleasure.