‘Both Fascinating and Disturbing’: Consumer Responses to 3D Food Printing and Implications for Food Activism
Digital Food Activism, edited by Tanja Schneider, Karin Eli, Catherine Dolan and Stanley Ulijaszek, by Routledge, London, Forthcoming
17 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 22, 2016
Fabricated food using 3D printing technologies has the potential to address challenges that have been identified by food activists and those contributing to scholarship on the politics of food. These include food sustainability, food waste, ethical consumption, environmental degradation and world hunger issues. 3D printed food is such a new phenomenon that very little research has been conducted on what members of the public make of it and how receptive they may be to the idea of consuming it. In this chapter, we draw on responses to an online discussion group with 30 Australian participants that examined these issues. The participants’ responses revealed an initial lack of knowledge about 3D printers in general and even less about 3D printed food. Once they had been introduced to some examples and asked to respond to them, a range of attitudes was expressed. These attitudes drew on longstanding cultural meanings around food, particularly those relating to ideas of ‘natural’ food, what food should look like, what matter is considered edible and the processing of this matter. Key challenges to accepting 3D printed food evident in the participants’ responses include how the technology redefines what ‘food’ is, how food should be made or manufactured and the limits of the manipulation of edible ingredients. We conclude that those who promote the concept of fabricating food with 3D printers, including activists for sustainability and ethical consumption, need to come to terms with these cultural meanings and dilemmas when they are seeking to naturalise what is perceived to be a very ‘unnatural’ way of producing edible matter.
Keywords: 3D printing, food, consumers, food activism, environment, world hunger, sociology, attitudes, beliefs, sociocultural
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation