Chicken bites from lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just is pictured in this handout photo.
Chicken bites from lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just is pictured in this handout photo. Image Credit: Reuters handout photo

SINGAPORE: Singapore has given U.S. start-up Eat Just the greenlight 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 meat, to be sold as nuggets, will be priced at premium chicken prices when it first launches in a restaurant in Singapore “in the very near term”, co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick said.

A fillet of lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just is pictured in this handout photo.
A fillet of lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just is pictured in this handout photo. Image Credit: Eat Just, Inc./Handout via REUTERS

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.

Cultured meat

But so-called clean or cultured meat, which is grown from animal muscle cells in a lab, is still at a nascent stage given high production costs. Singapore, a city state of 5.7 million, currently only produces about 10% 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.

Josh Tetrick said the San Francisco-based firm was also talking to U.S. regulators but that Singapore was a “good bit” ahead of the United States. “I would imagine what will happen is the U.S., 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,” he said in an interview.

Mung bean-based egg substitute

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 United States.

Founded in 2011, Eat Just counts Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and Singapore state investor Temasek among its backers. It has raised more than $300 million since its inception, Tetrick said, and is valued at roughly $1.2 billion. It is targeting profitability at an operating income level before the end of 2021 and hopes to go public soon after, he added.