A dish made with lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just is pictured in this handout photo.

Lab-grown meat to go on sale in Singapore in world first

Image credit: REUTERS/Eat Just, Inc

Singapore has given a US start-up the green light to sell its lab-grown chicken meat in what the firm says is the world’s first regulatory approval for so-called clean meat that does not come from slaughtered animals.

The start-up, called Eat Just, said that its meat, created from animal cells and produced in bioreactors, had been approved for sale in the city-state as an ingredient in chicken bites. Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, said the company’s regulatory approval for the meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the world.

It said in a statement the news marked a “breakthrough for the global food industry”, as it seeks to find less environmentally harmful ways of producing meat. Meat consumption is projected to increase over 70 per cent by 2050, according to Eat Just, and experts have frequently warned it is a key driver of climate change. 

Tetrick explained: “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.”

The company said it had conducted over 20 production runs in 1,200-litre bioreactors, and checks on safety and quality showed its “cultured” product – the term for meat grown in labs from animal cells – met food standards. 

Demand for alternatives to regular meat is surging due to concerns about health, animal welfare, and the environment. Plant-based substitutes, popularised by the likes of Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Quorn, increasingly feature on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. But so-called clean or cultured meat is still at a nascent stage, given high production costs.

Singapore, a city-state of 5.7 million people, currently only produces about 10 per cent of its food but has set out ambitious plans to raise that over the next decade by supporting high-tech farming and new means of food production.

Tetrick said the San Francisco-based firm was also talking to US regulators but that Singapore was a “good bit” ahead of the US. He said in an interview: “I would imagine what will happen is the US, Western Europe, and others will see what Singapore has been able to do, the rigours of the framework that they put together. And I would imagine that they will try to use it as a template to put their own framework together.”

The Singapore Food Agency said it had reviewed data relating to process, manufacturing control, and safety testing before granting approval. 

Eat Just said it will manufacture the product in Singapore, where it also plans to start making a mung-bean-based egg substitute it has been selling commercially in the US.

Globally, more than two dozen firms are testing lab-grown fish, beef, and chicken, hoping to break into an unproven segment of the alternative meat market, which Barclays estimates could be worth $140bn (£105bn) by 2029.

Competitors of Eat Just have also attracted some investors. For example, US-based Memphis Meats raised funds this year in a deal led by Japan’s SoftBank Group and Temasek, and also counts Bill Gates and Richard Branson among its backers.

Singapore’s Shiok Meats, which aims to become the first company to sell lab-grown shrimp, is backed by Henry Soesanto of Philippines’ Monde Nissin Corp, which also owns UK-based Quorn.

In Japan, the citizen-science community Shojinmeat is using an alternative home-based DIY approach to accelerate innovation in the world of developing ‘clean meat’.

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