Cultured meat is a potentially successful future alternative to conventional meat if consumers perceive it as similar enough to conventional meat. This paper aimed to investigate how consumers categorize cultured meat after receiving information about it being similar to meat or meat substitutes.
The first study (N = 130) showed that similarity information between cultured meat and meat resulted in the categorization of cultured meat as meat. This effect was not found for similarity information between cultured meat and meat substitutes. The second study (N = 200) ruled out that the name cultured meat influenced categorization. In contrast with study 1 similarity information between cultured meat and meat did not result in categorization, where similarity information between cultured meat and meat substitutes did. The third study (N = 152) suggested cultured meat was categorized as meat substitute, however, no evidence was found that providing similarity information between cultured meat and meat or meat substitutes influenced either categorization. Subsequent interviews within study 3 (N = 10) suggested that cultured meat overlaps substantially with the categories meat and meat substitutes and suggested that participants had difficulty to consistently categorize cultured meat. This may explain the apparently inconsistent results.
The findings of this paper thus suggest that cultured meat does not effortlessly fit into the meat or meat substitute category.