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Exploring perceptions of sustainable proteins and meat attachment

Victoria Emma Circus (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK)
Rosie Robison (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 23 October 2018

Issue publication date: 1 May 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore consumer perceptions of more sustainable protein alternatives to conventional meat.


A mixed method design of interviews and an online survey identified key drivers and barriers to the consumption of laboratory-grown meat, edible insects and plant-based meat substitutes, with meat attachment accounted for in analyses. Differences between personal preference and perceptions of alternative proteins’ role in addressing global environmental concerns were also explored.


Findings indicated that plant-based substitutes were favoured for personal consumption for moral and ethical reasons and edible insects were least favoured due to aversion. Meat attachment was significantly associated with personal willingness to consume alternative proteins in each of the three cases. Results challenged previous research that had proposed that when considering the effectiveness of certain alternatives in addressing global environmental issues, people may advocate them but not want to consume them personally. Results imply that the congruity of these perceptions is more complex.

Research limitations/implications

Avenues for future research, including applications for exploring tailored marketing are suggested based on the preliminary findings of this study.


This study asked consumers to consider three alternative proteins alongside one another for the first time, exploring how meat attachment is associated with perceptions and quantifying the congruity of consumers’ personal perceptions and global perceptions of these alternative proteins.



Circus, V.E. and Robison, R. (2019), "Exploring perceptions of sustainable proteins and meat attachment", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 2, pp. 533-545.



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