Almost a third of consumers say they would be happy to eat so-called “cultured meat,” with vegans being the group most likely to do so, according to new research.

Specialist PR agency Ingredient Communications, UK, commissioned Surveygoo, UK, to conduct an online survey of 1,000 consumers in the UK and United States. Respondents were told that cultured meat was real meat grown from cells in a laboratory and not sourced from animals. They were then asked if they would be willing to eat this type of meat if available to buy in shops and restaurants. In total, 29% said they would, 38% said they wouldn’t and the remaining 33% said they didn’t know.

The survey findings show that American respondents (40%) were more likely to eat cultured meat than those in the UK (18%). The results suggest that cultured meat pioneers would be well advised to target the U.S. market first.

In what was perhaps a surprising twist, vegan respondents were revealed as the consumer segment most likely to eat cultured meat, with 60% stating they would be willing to do so. The figure was lower for vegetarians (23%) and pescatarians (21%). Meanwhile, 28% of meat eaters – the largest cohort in the survey (888 of 1,000) – said they were prepared to give cultured meat a try.

“It’s easy to see why so many consumers welcome the prospect of lab-grown meat,” says Richard Clarke, founder and managing director of Ingredient Communications. “People enjoy eating meat, but often feel guilty about related issues such as animal welfare and the impact of farming on the environment. Cultured meat addresses those concerns, which is a compelling benefit. Nevertheless, we were surprised by how many respondents expressed a willingness to eat cultured meat. It’s such a new concept, and when you consider the backlash against GMOs and the unstoppable momentum of the naturalness trend, it seems counterintuitive that people would be willing to eat meat produced in a laboratory. However, our survey shows that it has appeal for a significant proportion of consumers, particularly those in America.”

“Particularly interesting was the fact that vegans were by some distance more likely to eat cultured meat than any other group,” Clarke adds. “This could be because vegans, perhaps more than any other group, are always on the lookout for new, ethical sources of protein. This offers interesting potential for companies operating in the embryonic cultured meat industry.”

“The results of this survey indicate that there is a huge difference between how U.S. and UK consumers perceive cultured meat,” says Neil Cary, managing director of Surveygoo. “It shows how countries, which on the surface, appear to share many similar values, may in fact diverge quite widely on certain issues. It’s very early days for cultured meat, and our findings highlight the value of asking consumers how they feel about cutting-edge developments such as these.”