Making “fake steak” socially acceptable

In an article about how “fake steak”/engineered meat may just be the solution to food problems in the world, a sociologist briefly discusses the social objections to the meat:

Sociologist Neil Stephens, who has interviewed many of those developing cultured meat, says that even bioethicists exploring the issues around test tube burgers have struggled to find any robust objection.

“In terms of investing the money and pursuing the research, no one really gets hurt – it’s just scientists in their laboratories seeing if they can make it,” he said. “There are no clear reasons to stand against it.”

However, that doesn’t mean that people will want to eat it.

“The ethicists recognise the ‘yuck factor’ – the idea that when people hear about it they are disgusted by it,” adds Stephens.

So if this is truly a viable solution, it sounds like the hardest problem will be overcoming people’s expectations about food itself and where it comes from. In other words, there need to be social norms that develop that make eating “fake steak” acceptable and not a downgrade or “inauthentic.” It is interesting to think about how a campaign to promote this meat might be run. Here are some options: employ celebrities (meaning, here is an easy way for you to be just like your favorite stars!); get famous restaurants and/or food people to use it/serve it; go for the compassion, helping, environmental argument (by doing this, you will be helping to save the world); and go the scientific route (this is “real meat” that just happened to have been produced in a lab). With an effective campaign, the meat can go from “disgusting” to normal.

Might this also be influenced by social class, meaning that if you have the resources and wealth you can purchase and eat “authentic” meat while “fake steak” is associated with the lower classes and people who might really need it?

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