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Why more than a third of meat eaters find lab-grown 'meat' too disgusting to eat

Scientist Hand In Protective Glove Holding Raw Artificial Grown Meat In Laboratory Test Tube
How do you feel about artificial meat? (Getty)

Growing meat in laboratory dishes could be far more environmentally friendly than ‘natural’ ways of rearing animals - but there’s a big problem.

A new study has suggested that 35% of meat eaters find the idea disgusting.

The problem is even worse among vegetarians (who could, in theory, eat lab-grown meat as no animal has died to make it), with 55% finding the idea of lab-grown meat revolting.

The researchers wrote, "As a novel food that humans have never encountered before, cultured meat may evoke hesitation for seeming so unnatural and unfamiliar – and potentially so disgusting.”

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The researchers asked meat eaters and vegetarians what they thought of ‘cultured meat’ based on a brief description of what it is and how it was made.

The volunteers were asked about what they thought about the food, what put them off it, and asked to respond to statements such as “cultured meat seems artificial” and “I would feel like I am eating something from an animal”, ScienceAlert reported.

The researchers found that the perceived “unnaturalness” of the product predicted disgust in both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

But for meat eaters, the fact that it resembles animal flesh made it less disgusting.

Close-up of home made tasty burger on wooden table.
Many are not willing to swap real meat for meat alternatives. (Getty)

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The researchers wrote, “These findings can guide efforts to improve consumer acceptance of cultured meat.Cultured meat - real animal flesh produced from in vitro cell cultures, without the need to raise animals - is now poised to become publicly available.

“Compared to conventional meat, cultured meat offers environmental benefits in its production using less water and yielding fewer greenhouse gas emissions. However, many people find cultured meat too disgusting to eat.”

A report last year suggested that Britain should embrace ‘synthetic meat’ in order to hit its limate targets.

The Social Market Foundation report urged policymakers to invest in the ‘alternative protein’ sector (where meat is produced using technologies such as ‘growing’ muscle fibre from tissue samples).

Other alternative proteins in the report include those derived from plants or from fermentation processes.

The report points out that consumers in the UK only eat 6% less meat per capita than in 1974 - despite the growing popularity of vegetable products and diets such as veganism.

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The researchers write, “If the UK is to reach its Net Zero commitments, meat consumption will need to fall more rapidly over the coming decades.

“However, there has been a conspicuous lack of policy designed to achieve this.

“Whereas media attention has focused on the radical and politically sensitive option of a ‘meat tax’, the rapid expansion of the alternative protein market offers a way to reduce meat consumption through consumer choice.”

Environmentalists have warned that the world’s growing appetite for meat, particularly in emerging economies such as China, is not sustainable because beef, pork and poultry require far greater resources than plant-based proteins.

There are several companies hoping to bring lab-grown meat to the table as early as next year, including Mosa Meat, Future Meat and Memphis Meat.

Mosa Meat uses a small sample of cells taken from a live animal, with a peppercorn-sized sample removed from a cow under anaesthesia.

The cow is left alive.

Watch: Scientists create lab-grown burgers in 2017