Meat revisited? Qualitative content analysis on the developing meanings of cultured meat in online news comments

Toni Ryynänen, Anni Ilona Toivanen

Research output: Conference materialsAbstract


The concept of post farmed-animal bioeconomy describes novel activity in the food sector where the conventional animal products and their production methods are replaced with alternatives. Cellular agriculture or technologies using cell cultivation to produce agricultural products such as cultured meat, is
an example of this emerging bioeconomy in action. However, cultured meat is not available on the marketplace and the consumers have not tried it yet. Meanwhile, the media presents novel foods and the related technologies to the consumers leaving them wondering about product attributes, new technologies
and the science behind the innovations. Although the media publicity of and the consumers’ perceptions about cultured meat are already studied, Finnish people’s reactions to cultured meat are still rather unknown. Our paper presents an on-going research in the field of anthropology of biotechnology: the
purpose is to examine the currently developing meaning system of cultured meat and to identify the themes people tend to attach to cultured meat. The data consists of 743 online comments about cultured meat from the Finnish news audiences. The data is analysed by qualitative content analysis. We ask how
people perceive the edibility or inedibility of cultured meat, what are those judgements based on, how the public make sense of this new and unfamiliar food technology, and what kind of meanings are associated with cultured meat. Preliminary findings suggest that the tone of people’s overall opinions of cultured meat range from anticipatory positive to fearfully pessimistic. People used traditionally produced meat and more familiar biotechnologies such as genetically modified crops and biomedicine’s tissue engineering as reference points for the cultural categorisation of cultured meat, for the evaluation of its acceptability as food and its possible societal impacts. People anchored and contrasted cultured meat to these products based on their consistency, production method, taste and perceived naturalness. Examples of positive
themes associated with cultured meat include increased animal well-being, human health, sustainable production and improvements in global food security. Negative comments revolved around perceived unnaturalness, the quality or originality of the product, harmfulness for the agriculture industry, distrust
towards scientists, enterprises, technically tuned foods and overall justification for producing something inferior to the conventional meat or unsustainable compared with vegan alternatives.

The research is part of a project “Cultured meat in post-animal bioeconomy - changing relationships between humans and farmed animals” funded by the Kone Foundation 2019-2022.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventMaataloustieteen päivät 2020 - Viikin kampus, Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 8 Jan 20209 Jan 2020


ConferenceMaataloustieteen päivät 2020
Internet address

Fields of Science

  • 416 Food Science
  • 5200 Other social sciences

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