Cultivated meat: A bad press?

Posted: 4 April 2023 | | No comments yet

ProVeg’s Mathilde Alexandre analyses the role the media plays in public perception when it comes to cultivated meat.

The production of meat and animal-based products through the use of cellular agriculture has the potential to help to solve or mitigate many of the world’s most challenging problems. By sourcing meat directly at the cellular level, without the need to breed, raise, and slaughter animals, cultivated meat has many potential benefits in terms of health, animal welfare, and the environment.

Media coverage of cultivated meat has dramatically increased in recent years, alongside the rapid developments and breakthroughs that have been made in the field of cellular agriculture. The media can play a crucial role in shaping public perception of cultivated meat. As an emerging food product, cultivated meat has garnered attention from various media outlets, and the way they portray it can have a significant impact on public opinion and policy decisions. In this article, we will explore how the media has presented cultivated meat and its potential impact.

The power of language

One way the media shapes public perception of cultivated meat is through the language it uses. If media outlets use positive language to describe the benefits of cultivated meat, such as its potential to reduce environmental impact or animal suffering, it can create a positive perception of the food product among the public.

On the other hand, negative language, such as describing cultivated meat as “lab-grown” or “artificial,” can create scepticism and a negative perception around it. A growing nomenclature consensus is evolving around “cultivated meat”. As an example, the Good Food Institute and the APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture joined more than 30 other key industry stakeholders to announce a memorandum of understanding aligning on “cultivated” as the industry’s preferred nomenclature.

The role of imagery

The use of images in media can also significantly impact public perception of cultivated meat. According to a consumer survey run by ProVeg International, lab-based pictures are the images that are predominantly associated with cultivated meat. When exposed to both lab-based and food-based images, a majority of survey respondents stated that they most frequently see lab-based pictures associated with cultivated meat.

This confirms the fact that lab-based images are currently the most used in media coverage of cultivated meat.

The same survey shows that food-based images of cultivated meat can create a positive perception of the technology. Respondents who were shown food-based images view cultured meat as more appealing, tasty, nutritious, and affordable, compared to those who were shown lab-based images.

However, images of sterile labs or petri dishes can create a negative perception of cultivated meat. It is important to note that existing photos on stock-photo sites that are tagged as “cultured” or “lab-grown” meat are usually images of conventionally produced meat placed in petri dishes, giving the public an inaccurate idea of what actual cultivated meat looks like.

According to Alexander, images like this can negatively influence consumers when it comes to cultivated meat

According to Alexandre, images like this can negatively influence consumers when it comes to cultivated meat

Cultured meat companies along with other alternative protein manufacturers received large amounts of investment in 2020

It is essential for the media to use accurate and informative images to create a balanced and informed public perception of cultivated meat. This is why ProVeg recommends the use of food-based images to describe cultivated meat.

Cultivated meat: how close is it to US plates?

Stories and framings

Another way the media outlets shape public perception of cultivated meat is through the stories they choose to cover and the way they frame the issue. Instead of polarising the issue as “for or against,” it is important to frame cultivated meat as a complementary solution to improve our food system.

Cultivated meat has the potential to be a complementary solution to our current food system by offering a more sustainable and ethical way to produce meat. In addition, it offers a way to meet the increasing demand for meat without compromising animal welfare, the environment and public health. However, it is important to remain transparent about the challenges and limitations of this technology and to continue to communicate the devastating impact of conventional animal agriculture.

Cultivated meat is a food product not a science experiment. Studies show that a scientific description results in lower acceptance levels. Highlighting the benefits of cultivated meat leads to significantly more positive perceptions than highlighting the technological/scientific aspects, largely explained by perceived unnaturalness and disgust. Transparency in the production process is however important for building public trust.

Therefore, a balance between communicating product features and explaining the technology is necessary. This requires significant education and awareness work to inform consumers about what cultivated meat actually is.


As the technology develops and becomes more widespread, it will be important for the media to continue to present a balanced and accurate portrayal of the potential benefits and challenges of cultivated meat. The media plays a vital role in shaping public perception of cultivated meat. By using positive language, food-based images, focusing on the potential benefits, while remaining transparent around the challenges, and framing the issue appropriately, the media has the potential to create a constructive discussion around cultivated meat among the public.

About the author

Mathilde Alexandre, Senior Project Manager at ProVeg International, is coordinating ProVeg’s Cell-Ag Project which focuses on raising awareness and increasing acceptance of cellular agriculture. She is working on shaping a reassuring and transparent discourse around cellular agriculture that resonates with people. When studying communication and media at the Sorbonne University, she wrote her master thesis on corporate communication and cultivated meat.

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