Meet meat: An explorative study on meat and cultured meat as seen by Chinese, Ethiopians and Dutch

Gerben A. Bekker, Hilde Tobi*, Arnout R.H. Fischer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


In this cross-cultural study we investigated how study participants from China, Ethiopia and the Netherlands operationalize the concept of meat and to what extent cultured meat fits or does not fit into this operationalization. We argue that combining the conceptual approaches symbolic boundaries and theory of social practices helps to better understand the possibly culturally dependent operationalization of the concept meat. Ten visiting graduate students from China, 10 from Ethiopia and 10 native Dutch graduate students completed freelist tasks, a pile sort task, interview and essay task, during a single session. We found that butchered animals are at the center of the concept of meat, although depending on culture not all animals are a source of meat. Symbolic boundaries were restricted or stretched depending on social practices within countries. Ethiopian participants applied strictly defined symbolic boundaries, where Chinese and Dutch participants used more broadly defined symbolic boundaries. Cultured meat was seen as a technology for the future and was positioned across the symbolic boundaries of meat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Cultured meat
  • Meat
  • Practice theory
  • Social practice
  • Symbolic boundaries


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