Wednesday Dec 02, 2020
SINGAPORE: In a first, lab-grown chicken will now be available in restaurants around the city-state after it green-lit the creation of meat without the slaughter of animals.
US start-up Eat Just said Wednesday that its meat had been approved for sale in the city-state as an ingredient in chicken nuggets.
The news marks a "breakthrough for the global food industry", said the company, as firms increasingly try to find less environmentally harmful ways of producing meat.
"I'm sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe," said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just.
Consumption of regular meat is an environmental threat as cattle produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, while logging forests to make way for animals destroys natural barriers against climate change.
Demand for sustainable alternatives to meat is rising due to growing consumer pressure, but other products in the market are plant-based.
There were concerns lab-grown varieties would be too expensive, but a spokesman for Eat Just said the company had made "considerable progress" in lowering the cost.
"Right from the start, we will be at price parity for premium chicken at a high-end restaurant," he told AFP.
He did not reveal the price of the nuggets but said they would be launched soon at a Singapore restaurant, before other products including lab-grown chicken breasts are rolled out.
Eat Just hopes to bring down the cost to below that of conventional chicken in the coming years, the spokesman added.
The company conducted over 20 production runs in 1,200 litre bioreactors to make the chicken alternative, and checks on safety and quality showed its "cultured" product — the term for meat grown in labs from animal cells — met food standards.
Meat consumption is projected to increase over 70% by 2050, and lab-grown alternatives have a role to play in ensuring a safe, secure food supply, Eat Just said.
"Working in partnership with the broader agriculture sector and forward-thinking policymakers, companies like ours can help meet the increased demand for animal protein as our population climbs to 9.7 billion by 2050," said company CEO Tetrick.
The Singapore Food Agency, the city-state's regulator, confirmed it had approved the sale of Eat Just's lab-grown chicken in nuggets after concluding it was safe for consumption.
The agency said it had put in place a framework for "novel foods" which do not have a history of being consumed by humans to ensure safety standards are met before they go on sale.
The high-tech city-state has become a hub for the development of sustainable foods in recent years, with local start-ups concocting dishes suited to Asian palates.
These range from lab-grown "seafood" to dumplings made with tropical fruit instead of pork.