China is on the verge of becoming the largest market in the world for protein. As such, it can be seen that the future of global meat consumption is largely based on the purchasing habits of Chinese consumers. Cultured meat is making some headway in China and could be vital in meeting Chinese consumers’ growing demand for meat, whilst also limiting the negative environmental, health, and ethical impacts of the traditional meat industry.
Hub of China recently conducted interviews of 100 middle class Chinese consumers regarding their attitudes and priorities around eating meat. Interestingly, although China is generally associated with a meat eating culture what came out of the interviews was Chinese consumer’s acceptance of eating mock meats and plant-based protein such as tofu to make up the staple of a meal. Unlike the west the tofu eating culture in China has been established for thousands of years.
In terms of their priorities around food the respondents were identified as having a preferences for convenience, safety, price, and quality of the food, whilst deprioritizing environmental and ethical impacts when compared to consumers in the West. It is important to note that whilst environmental and ethical impacts are still a low overall concern among Chinese consumers, we recently conducted research to suggest this concern is growing especially among younger consumers.
Hub of China also conducted a survey of 500 Chinese consumers surrounding their meat eating habits and their willingness to try, purchase, and substitute cultured meat products. 75% of survey respondents were willing to try these products and 65% of respondents were willing to purchase them. Only 40% of respondents indicated that they would have greater willingness to consume a cultured meat product over conventional meat. What was also interesting was prior to the survey, less than half of respondents had prior knowledge of cultured meat. After reading descriptions of it, 90% of respondents indicated they were interested in learning more.
Many of the participants identified various advantages of cultured meat with the majority believing it was better for the welfare of animals, environment, society and there were quite a few mentions of the possibility of it preventing future pandemics like COVID.
The main negative of cultured meat was that respondents felt that cultured meat was not natural. Respondents mentioned that they would be most likely to eat it as a substitute for processed meat which they also view as unnatural. In fact when the respondents were asked about how often they ate processed meat 95% stated they ate it at least twice a week.
Participants of the survey also indicated that they would be most likely to purchase cultured meat as an alternative to processed meat. The reason cited for this was because they considered processed meat as also not very natural.
Chinese consumers’ role in the global food market continues to grow, and their preferences for different sources of protein are becoming more important for animal advocates to understand. Although cultured meat is far from mainstream in China there is an increasing awareness and willingness to be open to it, driven by an increasing concern for the source of meat and welfare of animals.
Cultured meats will inevitably become a vital role in future diets, and thus an awareness of the preferences of the largest group of consumers in the world can provide valuable insights into how to affect changes in consumption.