Perception of Portuguese Consumers Regarding the Consumption of Cultured Meat

Review Article

Int J Nutr Sci. 2022; 7(1): 1065.

Perception of Portuguese Consumers Regarding the Consumption of Cultured Meat

Santos JC1 and Vaz-Fernandes P1,2*

¹Department of Science and Technology, Universidade Aberta, Portugal

²CAPP, Centre for Public Administration & Public Policies, Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

*Corresponding author: Vaz-Fernandes P, Science and Technology Department, Universidade Aberta, 1269-001 Lisbon, Portugal

Received: October 31, 2022; Accepted: November 24, 2022; Published: December 01, 2022


Meat consumption is important to human diet due to its nutritional contents but the contents in saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and purines are harmful to human health. Furthermore, the population and urban growth expected in the coming decades and the consequent expected increase in the consumption of meat of animal origin is related to serious environmental, social and ethical problems that can jeopardize human food security and the future of the planet Earth. Cultured meat presents itself as a viable alternative, with no need to raise animals for slaughter, but consumer perception and acceptance are key factors for the implementation of this new product in the food sector. In the present study it was intent to observe the current pattern of consumption of conventional meat by Portuguese population, and the degree of concern regarding the problems with the food system. Data were collected through online anonymous questionnaire survey on social networks between the 30thOctober and 30thDecember 2021. Questionnaire was composed of 24 questions that addressed: i) sociodemographic data; ii) current social and environmental problems (related to meat consumption); iii) assessment of eating habits and food frequency consumption; and iv) perception of receptivity of the participants towards cultured meat. Results showed that 91.9% of the participants consume meat, while 8.0% of the sample reported not consuming any type of meat of animal origin. It was found that 55.2% of Portuguese participants were familiar with this new food, and 59.0% were willing to try cultured meat.

Keywords: Agriculture; Meat Consumption; Climate Change; Consumer Perception; Cultured Meat


DGS: Directorate-General for Health; GHG: Greenhouse Gases; LCA: Life Cycle Assessment; SPSS: Statistical Package for the Social Sciences


After World War II, humanity witnessed a change in agri-food systems, becoming more hegemonic, that is, subject to certain diets, which gave rise to diets based on meat, wheat and milk (British hegemony) and diets based on meat, wheat and milk based on corn, soybeans and industrialized products (American hegemony), and these food systems led to the emergence of large consortia that began to control the value chains associated with food. Due to this organizational structure in the food sector, considerable environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts have arisen, and it is currently urgent to create new guiding principles, provide high quality diets, thus effecting a restructuring of the current agrifood system [1].

According to Lonnie et al., (2018), over time, meat has become an important part of the human diet, as it is considered an essential source of proteins, lipids and micronutrients [2]. Meat as a food product (from traditional livestock farming) is known in the literature as conventional meat, which can be defined as meat of animal origin for human consumption.

Although some popular myths address the probable vegetarian origin of the human being, according to Barrena (2020) evolutionary biology presents scientific evidence that homo-sapiens presents a series of adaptations, both anatomical and physiological oriented towards a more carnivorous diet [3], such as, for example, the characteristic mandible of the human being (it shows an omnivorous and not strictly vegetarian diet); short colon (greater difficulty in absorbing plant foods rich in fiber); the need for a diet with high protein quality (associated with the high cost of maintaining nervous tissue), and on the other hand, the human digestive system preferentially absorbs iron bound to hemoglobin and porphyric compounds present in meat of animal origin. In contrast, herbivorous animals do not absorb iron from meat-associated compounds and rely on iron ions present in plants [3]. In this context, an exclusively vegetarian diet may not be natural to the human species, so the arguments in favour of a conventional meat-free diet continue to be of environmental, economic, ethical and personal health concerns.

The effects of the global agricultural industry are increasingly evident on our planet, with livestock alone accounting for 14.5% of human-induced Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions [4]. Considering the population and urban growth associated with the increase in food consumption, it is urgent to mitigate emissions from agricultural production, with this reformulation being a fundamental step towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement [5].

In this sense, alternative protein sources for human consumption, such as meat grown in the laboratory, can be one of the solutions, providing a reduction in the environmental impact generated by traditional agriculture, animal welfare, better food security and increased efficiency in the production of meat. Meat? [6]. In this way, cellular agriculture is expected to be part of the fourth agricultural revolution, which can be defined as the controlled and sustainable manufacture of agricultural products through cells and tissues of plants or animals, without suppressing or slaughtering them. However, cultured meat is not yet commercially produced on a large scale, and estimates of its environmental impact are based on “Life Cycle Assessments” (LCA), which result in different conclusions related to the efficiency of the process [7], and according to Mattick (2018), the development of new renewable energy sources and the implementation of large-scale production processes could significantly reduce the selling price [8], since it currently costs six times more than conventional meat. According to several studies, compared to traditional agriculture, the production of cultured meat can use between 82 and 96% less water, 78 to 96% less GHG emissions, 99% less land and between 7 and 45% less energy, depending on the type of meat produced [8], and only in the case of the production of chicken meat, the energy used is higher than the value observed in the production of traditional poultry meat [8,9].

It should be noted that over the last decade, many consumers have changed their usual patterns of meat consumption, with an increase in alternative food products. In this context, cultured meat can represent a viable alternative to these products, strengthening the market by offering new categories of meat, for example, through the culture of cells from rare animals, endangered or extinct species (exotic meats).

In this way, since there is no need to slaughter animals, cultured meat can be well accepted among the vegetarian or vegan public gain [10]. In December 2020, cultured meat was regulatory approved by the Singapore Food Agency, being marketed to the public for the first time in a Singapore restaurant [11]. While most consumers admit willingness to try cultured meat [12,13], some consumers have concerns about food safety, sensory appeal and price [14,15], and, according to Slade [16], the perception of consumers about cultured meat changes quickly after receiving information about the advantages of this product and after trying cultured meat [16], as this product perfectly replicates the sensory appeal of conventional meat.

Literature Review

Eating Habits and Frequency of Meat Consumption

A food habit or diet can be defined by the way people use a certain food, being defined according to the culture and customs of each person, religion, influence of family members or acquaintances, but also by personal ideologies, through access to information or education, by income or food prices [17,18]. Currently, eating habits or diets such as the Mediterranean, carnivorous, omnivorous, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, frugivorous, raw, keto, ketogenic diet, among others, are common.

With regard to meat consumption by the portuguese, it was found in 2019, through the National Health Survey [19], that the frequency of meat consumption has been higher than recommended in the Food Wheel, with each portuguese having available for consumption, in the period 2016-2020, on average, about 229.8 g/day of meat, with an increase of 8.7% in the average availability of meat of animal origin [19].

According to the report “The Green Revolution Portugal”, carried out by Lantern (2020), there was a tendency for portuguese consumers to reduce their consumption of meat and sausages, with 45% of portuguese admit having reduced their consumption of red meat in the last year. Even so, the data indicate that 88.6% of portuguese consumers aged 18 years or over mention following an omnivorous diet, that is, they eat conventional meat in varying amounts and that 7.4% of the sample refers to having a flexitarian diet (reduced meat consumption), which, after all, 96.0% of the participants in this study consume meat of animal origin. In the Lantern study (2020) it was also found that 0.9% follow a vegetarian diet and 0.7% a vegan diet [20].

Structural and Biochemical Composition of Meat as a Food Product

Regarding the structural and biochemical composition of meat, according to Sarcinelli & Venturini (2007), the structural knowledge of meat, as well as its basic constituents and muscle biochemistry, are fundamental to understanding the functional properties of meat as food [21].

Generally, the epithelial tissue is presented by a smaller portion in the weight of the muscle, varying according to the location of the animal’s body, the age, breed and species of the animal [22]. In the case of chicken meat, the characteristics of the epithelial tissue play a fundamental role in the formation of aroma, flavor and texture during the frying process [22]. As for the nervous tissue, it constitutes less than 1% of the meat, it is formed by highly specialized cells, being sensitive to stimuli of external origin, so when the nervous tissue is stimulated by nerve impulses, before or after the slaughter of the animal, can influence meat quality [22]. On the other hand, the adipose part of the connective tissue, which stores neutral fats and serves as an energy reservoir for the animal, has a high importance in the flavor, texture and juiciness of meat as food [22].

As for the chemical composition (g/100g) and energy content (kcal/100g), meat is mainly made up of proteins, lipids and water, in a proportion that can vary depending on factors such as age, breed or species and animal diet. Regarding the minerals present, meat has almost all the minerals necessary to meet the nutritional needs of human beings (phosphorus and potassium), as well as being an excellent source of trace elements (zinc and iron), and iron from meat has better bioavailability than the iron present in foods of plant origin. In terms of protein content, meat has proteins of high biological value, as it contains almost all the essential amino acids for human nutrition [22].

On the other hand, the lipids (fats) present in the meat are pointed out critically, since they are harmful to the human being when there is an excess of meat consumption. In this context, long-chain saturated fatty acids are responsible for some processes that are harmful to human health, and undesirable substances such as cholesterol and purines are still present [22].

World Meat Production

World meat production reached 337 million tons in 2019, an increase of 44% (+103 million tons) compared to the year 2000. Despite the fact that there are several species of animals raised for slaughter and human consumption, only three represent 88% of global production (poultry, pork and beef). In this context, poultry meat has shown the highest growth in absolute and relative terms since 2000, covering 35% of world production in 2019, making it the most produced type of meat for consumption in the world. Among the main meat producers in the world, China, the United States of America and Brazil produce about 40% of the total production [23].

Social, Environmental, Economic and Ethical Problems Associated with the Consumption of Conventional Meat

The production and consumption of meat is associated with population and urban growth, with a clear and proven influence on problems related to food insecurity, global warming and consequent climate change, deforestation and loss of plant and animal biodiversity, pollution of natural resources (water, soils), generating problems such as hunger, unemployment and poverty, in addition to causing the suffering and exploitation of animals raised for slaughter, which are often treated in precarious conditions and using antibiotics used in the agricultural industry.

Use of natural resources and inefficient conversion of nutrients: Given the population growth and the strong demand for food of animal origin, the natural resources to sustain this growth are overloaded, and the planet can no longer sustain this increase in pressure [24].

Globally, 30% of the land surface is used for the production of animal feed to feed livestock [25], while the water used for growing animal feed represents 98% of the total water footprint of livestock production [26].

On the other hand, the feeding process of the animals may vary according to the species, especially between ruminant animals (cattle) and monogastric animals (poultry and swine). With regard to the feed conversion obtained by transforming animal feed into meat (as an end product), this process is measured according to the efficiency with which animals convert feed into body weight gain or usable product. Thus, raising cattle has a less efficient feed conversion compared to raising poultry or swine, and for each kilogram (kg) of edible meat (final product) 25 kilograms of feed obtained from feed and pasture are required [27]. Raising poultry or swine, as mentioned above, has more efficient values in the conversion of nutrients than cattle, and to obtain 1 kg of meat from a swine it is necessary to feed it with 6.4 kg of dry feed, while a bird only needs 3.3 kg of dry feed for every kilogram of edible meat. Other animal products, such as eggs and whole milk, have more efficient ratios than meat, 2.3 kg and 0.7 kg respectively [27].

Concept of Cultured Meat

Cultured meat is produced using animal cell culture (or culturing) technology, genuinely produced from specimen stem cells. The method of selecting the animal’s genetic material can be performed from muscle, fat or connective tissue, using a biopsy, which is a painless process for the animal. Subsequently, from a single stem cell, successive multiplications and subsequent differentiation and maturation, there is an increase in the number of cells and cell density. This process is carried out in a sequence of progressive scale bioreactors, until the appropriate amount of cells is reached, with or without the combination of other support materials. The cells obtained contain the same types of cells that are organized in the three-dimensional structures present in animals, forming the same tissues, so they can perfectly replicate the sensory and nutritional profile of beef, chicken, seafood or other meat products. conventionally produced [28].

Cultured Meat and Consumers

Concerns about animal welfare, sustainable meat production and awareness of GHG emissions associated with livestock are on the rise among consumers, which gives rise to interest in more sustainable meat alternatives, among which is cultured meat.

Several studies carried out in recent years have sought to understand public perception and consumer acceptance of cultured meat, analyzing issues such as the influence of environmental impacts, animal welfare, sustainability of the production process [28], between others.

According to Pakseresht et al. (2022), there is a link between consumer knowledge and attitude towards agri-food technologies, and consumer skepticism in new food production technologies (food neophobia) is associated with a lack of knowledge of the technology and its advantages. With regard to cultured meat, the literature points to evidence for the lack of knowledge of consumers in relation to the technology of cellular agriculture, having observed that individuals aware of the concept of cultured meat showed more predisposition to accept this product, and it should be noted that several studies indicate that prior knowledge can increase consumers’ willingness to accept cultured meat [29].

Materials and Methods

Bearing in mind that cultured meat is not yet marketed in Portugal and it is not possible, asit would be convenient, to hold a sensory analysis event among Portuguese participants, in order to experience this new food product, we sought to assess the perception of Portuguese consumers in relation to certain environmental, social and ethical problems associated with the agricultural sector, as well as in relation to cultured meat.

An online questionnaire (Google Forms) was used as a research and information collection tool, which was distributed for 60 days through social networks. In addition to evaluating the eating habits of the Portuguese participants, we sought to observe their perception of the consumption of cultured meat and the possible availability to taste this new food.

The data collected from 1280 Portuguese participants were processed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 26.0.0 program, using basic exploratory data analysis techniques such as mean, standard deviation, percentage, absolute frequency or relative and the chi-square test of independence, as well as the respective contingency tables with significance tests (p < 0.05).


Among the 1280 Portuguese participants, 72.2% were female and only 27.8% were male, with a minimum age of 18 years and a maximum of 74 years. With regard to the district of residence, there was a more active participation by residents of the Autonomous Region of Madeira (23.0%), Lisbon (18.8%) and Porto (10.2%). It should be noted that 69.2% of the participants reported having a higher education course.

Regarding the type of diet, it was observed that 73.0% of the participants follow a Mediterranean diet, 12.5% follow a strictly carnivorous diet, 2.4% are vegetarians and 1.3% claim to be vegans. Overall, 91.9% of the sample admitted to consuming conventional meat, while 8.0% mentioned that they do not eat any type of meat of animal origin.

As for the consumption of red meat, it was observed that 31.5% of the participants consume this type of meat between 2 and 4 times a week and 28.3% at least once a week, with 19.1% of the sample mentioning they consume red meat between 1 to 3 times a month. Regarding the habit of consuming white meat, it was observed that 48.8% of the participants consume this type of meat between 2 and 4 times a week, that is, more often than red meat (+17.3%), verifying It is also noted that 16.6% of the participants consume white meat once a week, 14.2% have the habit of consuming it 5 to 6 times a week and 10.7% between 1 and 3 times a month. Regarding the consumption of processed meats such as sausages, ham, bacon, the data obtained indicate that the consumption of this type of meat is not as frequent as in the case of red or white meats, observing that 33.0% of participants admit that they consume processed meats “never or less than once a month”, while 30.4% report consuming this type of meat between 1 and 3 times a month and 24.2% of the sample consume processed meats once per week (Table 1).