Singapore on Wednesday gave regulatory approval to US start-up Eat Just to sell lab-grown meat, thus becoming the first government in the world to officially allow the sale of cultured meat. The decision will now allow Eat Just, which is known for its plant-based egg substitute, to sell its lab-grown chicken as an ingredient in Singapore.
The product, created from animal cells without the slaughtering of any chickens, will make its debut in Singapore under the GOOD Meat brand as a chicken bite with breading and seasoning in a single restaurant. The landmark decision comes at a time when an increasing number of health conscious people are looking for alternatives to regular meat.
Meat But Not Meat
The approval, a first-of-its-kind, is aimed at popularizing the plant-based meat culture in Singapore. At the same time, it opens up a huge market for Eat Just, which has been trying to make cultured meat popular in the country. "The first-in-the-world regulatory allowance of real, high-quality meat created directly from animal cells for safe human consumption paves the way for a forthcoming small-scale commercial launch in Singapore," Chief Executive Officer of Eat Just Josh Tetrick said on Wednesday.
The meat will be sold as nuggets and the company had previously pegged the cost at $50 each. However, Tetrick said that the price has gone down substantially and it will be priced on par with premium chicken when it makes its Singapore debut. He also said that the chicken's flavor and taste will be the same as the real thing. The price is likely to go down further over time.
Promoting a New Culture
Health-conscious people over the past few years have been taking to plant-based meat. However, the so-called clean or cultured meat, which is grown from animal muscle cells in a laboratory, is still at a nascent stage given the high production costs involved in producing them.
That said, Singapore is fast moving toward promoting the culture of plant-based meat, and that too at a time when it is trying to be self sufficient in producing its own food. Singapore is a densely populated nation and largely depends on imports to meet the food demand for its 5.7 million citizens.
However, this has somewhat been hampered with trade closing and then slowing down following the coronavirus outbreak. In response to that, Singapore is aiming to produce at least 30% of its total food requirement on its own. Presently, it produces only around 10%.
The plant-based meat culture could aid in that move given that Singapore has worked faster than Europe and the United States in promoting cultured meat. The approval process for cultured meat products is moving slower in Europe and the United States. "Singapore has really spent a lot more time and energy getting this right than Western Europe and the U.S.," Tetrick said.
However, making the culture popular could take some time given that chicken is still one of the most inexpensive proteins. In the United States, grocery stores regularly sell $5 whole rotisserie chickens, while many restaurants offer $1 chicken sandwiches.
That said, cultured chicken is fast getting a place in the shelves of these grocery stores too with companies like Beyond Meat going all out to popularize plant-based meat into the regular diet of people.
The next big move for Eat Just could be plant-based chicken burgers. The company is also planning to submit application for lab-created beef there during the first half of next year. Given the pace at which Singapore is moving it is likely that completion in the cultured meat space would only intensify in the future.