Insects and lab-grown meat on the menu for some, survey suggests

·3-min read
A quarter of UK consumers would try edible insects, according to a survey (Richard Swingler/PA) (PA Media)
A quarter of UK consumers would try edible insects, according to a survey (Richard Swingler/PA) (PA Media)

More than a third of people would be willing to try meat grown in a laboratory, while around a quarter would munch on edible insects, a survey has found.

Environmental and sustainability were the most common reasons for trying either foods, according to research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

While six in 10 respondents were willing to try plant-based proteins in their diet, the biggest barrier was a preference for traditional meats (36%), the poll results showed.

Of those who said they were unwilling to try lab-grown meat, 27% said they could be persuaded if they knew it was safe to eat and 23% if they could trust that it was properly regulated.

When it comes to edible insects, one in eight (13%) of those reluctant to try them said they could be persuaded if they knew they were safe to eat, while 11% said they would consider it if they looked appetising.

Nearly two in five of those willing to try edible insects said they would do so if the creatures were ground into food for added protein such as in bread, burgers, or falafel balls.

FSA chief scientific adviser Professor Robin May said the findings show the importance consumers place on the safe and proper regulation of food.

The watchdog said it wants to reiterate its commitment to supporting food innovation, especially if there are potential benefits for people’s health, for the environment or for boosting the economy.

This important survey highlights that, while many consumers are considering trying alternative proteins, they will quite rightly only do so if they are confident that these products are safe and properly regulated

Professor Robin May. Food Standards Agency

Prof May said: “Our priority is to protect consumer interests by ensuring food is safe and what it says it is through a robust scientific process. We recognise the potential of alternative proteins for improving dietary health and as part of a sustainable food system.

“This important survey highlights that, while many consumers are considering trying alternative proteins, they will quite rightly only do so if they are confident that these products are safe and properly regulated.

“Consequently, we are working closely with businesses and trade bodies to ensure they make effective use of the FSA’s existing regulatory framework so that consumers can benefit from innovative food products whilst still having full confidence in their safety.”

Of the almost 2,000 people who took part in the survey, 90% had heard of plant-based proteins, while 80% were familiar with edible insects, and 78% with lab-grown meat.

While a majority (77%) perceived plant-based proteins as being safe to eat, this dropped to half for edible insects and 30% for lab-grown meat.

Around 34% of people said they were willing to try the latter, while 26% said they would try edible insects.

Of those who said they were willing to try plant-based proteins in their diet, the most common reasons were because they thought it was safe to eat (44%), for health reasons (39%), or environmental or sustainability (36%) reasons.

The FSA said it will bring key industry stakeholders together later this year to consider how businesses can be supported in entering the alternative proteins market.

– The FSA commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct an online survey of 1,930 people aged 16-75 living in England Wales and Northern Ireland across three days in December 2021.

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