beef cattle in field
beef cattle in field
beef cattle in field
beef cattle in field
beef cattle in field

Traditional Beef Outflanks Cell-Cultured in Consumer Survey, But Plant-Based Makes a Dent

Aug. 11, 2023
A Purdue University study of more than 1,200 American consumers showed beef from cattle preferred over cell-cultured options — except on animal welfare and environmental impact.

A study by Purdue University’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability in the College of Agriculture shows that meat alternatives — particularly cell-cultured or “lab-grown” — have a steep hill to climb to be preferred by consumers over traditionally produced beef from cattle.

The survey considered “cell-cultured” and “lab-grown” to be the same type of alternative protein, but asked consumers separately because researchers “wanted to know if different names produced different preferences.”

In just one category — animal welfare — did any of the three alternatives rank better than traditional beef from cattle, with 42% saying plant-based protein was better (38% said beef from cattle was better than plant-based, and 19% said they were about the same). In every other element, beef from cattle ranked better.

It is noteworthy that plant-based alternatives did fare better in the survey than their cell-cultured brethren overall, ranking equal to or better than beef from cattle in seven of the consumer demands highlighted, including environmental impact, sustainability and safety. Lab-grown ranked the same as or better than traditional beef in animal welfare and environmental impact, while “cell-cultured” alternatives matched traditional beef (50-50) in animal welfare.

Traditional beef dominated consumer preferences for topics such as taste, where respondents held traditional beef well above all three alternative types. Beef from cattle came in at 71 percent against plant-based, 73 percent compared to cell-cultured and 68 percent against lab-grown on taste, for example. Beef from cattle also trounced the alternatives when consumers were asked about appearance, freshness, naturalness and price.

The Consumer Food Insights (CFI) survey is a monthly poll of more than 1,200 Americans from across the country. Since January 2022, the report states, the Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability (CFDAS) at Purdue University has used this survey to track trends and changes in consumer food demand and food sustainability behaviors.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.