Singapore becomes first country to approve lab-grown meat

4 Jan 2021

The Singapore Food Agency, the city state’s regulatory body for food, approved San Francisco startup Eat Just’s cell-based meat chicken product, paving the way for its sale in the country.

Eat Just’s cultured chicken will initially be used in chicken nuggets, according to The BBC, but there is no timeline on when the product will be released. However, the company said that when it debuts its chicken nuggets they will retail for a price that is comparable to premium conventional chicken products. Last year, the same chicken nuggets would have sold for $50 a piece.

Singapore becomes first country to approve lab-grown meat
Image courtesy of Eat Just

Singapore found that cultured meat is safe for consumption, however, Eat Just went further with the number of accolades that it attributed to cell-cultured chicken, pointing out in a release that its lab-grown chicken had a lower microbiological content than conventional chicken and that its chicken was grown using no antibiotics.

But Singapore is not the only country in which Eat Just is working toward regulatory approval. Food Dive reported that the cell-based meat company is striving for approval in the U.S. as well as one other location that remains undisclosed. In addition to seeking additional approvals for its chicken products, the company is also developing other products that are both cell-based and plant-based.

In 2020, Eat Just received funding to manufacture its mung bean Just Egg product in Singapore. It is also working to produce cultured wagyu beef with the Japanese meat producer Toriyama. Food Dive reported that the company will present a culture beef line as the next product for regulatory approval.

Unlike plant-based meat substitutes, cultured or cell-based meat is a lab-grown product derived from real animal cells. Although the product is not vegetarian – the cells are taken from live chickens – manufacturers are looking to appeal to this demographic since this method of meat production does not entail killing animals. At the same time, another major demographic that cultured meat manufactures are looking to appeal to are carnivores.

Meat eaters and flexitarians – those who choose to occasionally consume a plant-based diet – are a major component driving the growth of meat alternatives, a category that the investment firm UBS forecasts to rise from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion in 2030. A primary reason for this astronomical growth is due to the health associations of meat alternatives. Fifty-two percent of U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods because it makes them feel healthier, per a study from DuPont Nutrition & Health found. Cell-based meat, however, is having a more difficult time taking off.

A 2019 poll from marketing firm Charleston|Orwig found that 40% of consumers found lab-created food to be “scary.” Nevertheless, a more recent report from the consulting firm Kearney anticipates that 35% of all meat consumed worldwide will be cell-based by 2040. With opinions on the subject evolving and companies making headway in terms of regulatory approvals, it is unlikely that the development of these cell-based alternatives will slow down. Instead, production is likely to increase, and the proliferation of these options may even result in changing opinions in regards to their appeal.

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