- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2020

Chicken nuggets made from animals without slaughtering them? Oh, how far along food technology has come.

Eat Just, a San Francisco-based company that develops meat alternatives, this week received the first-in-the-world regulatory approval from Singapore to sell its laboratory-grown cultured meat in the form of chicken nuggets.

The company said the regulatory approval of cultured meat from animal cells is not only safe for human consumption and avoids slaughtering animals, but also will help meet the increasing demand for meat production.

Eat Just said it soon will launch at a restaurant in Singapore and is working with the chef on the menu and pricing.

“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. “Singapore has long been a leader in innovation of all kinds, from information technology to biologics to now leading the world in building a healthier, safer food system.”



While alternative proteins such as plant-based “mock meat” products made of soy or wheat proteins have long been on the market, cultured or cell-based meat does not have a history of being consumed as food, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) said.

The food agency said cultured meats are considered “novel” alternative proteins and are assessed for safety before being allowed to be sold as food. The sovereign island city-state has a particular interest in protein alternatives since it only produces 10% of the food it needs to feed its 5.7 million people, according to The Straits Times newspaper.

More than 79 million Americans used meat alternatives in 2019, and researchers project this number will climb to 80.2 million in 2023. Meat substitute sales brought in more than $995 million and are anticipated to grow at a rate five times higher than the animal meat sales, according to Statista, a market and consumer data clearinghouse based in Germany.

Eat Just said it’s been working on its cultured chicken for more than four years and spent two years seeking approval from the SFA.

To make the cultured chicken, the company sources a small amount of animal cells from poultry or livestock and then feeds those cells the same nutrients animals need to grow and multiply such as vitamins, fats, minerals and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

“These nutrients grow the cells into meat. The entire process takes place in a safe and controlled environment, much like a beer brewery. Instead of growing the entire animal, we grow just what is typically consumed (the edible portion). This means that we use fewer resources to grow the meat and we can be more efficient, completing growth in weeks rather than months or years,” Andrew Noyes, company spokesman, said in an email.

Mr. Noyes said the cost of synthetic chicken bites would be comparable to “premium chicken” served in a high-end restaurant.

However, prices should drop as production increases. The company is also working on other types of meat, including beef using cells from California pasture-raised cattle and Wagyu (beef cattle) from the Toriyama farm in Japan.

“Cultivated meat will mark an enormous advance in our efforts to create a food supply that is safe, secure, and sustainable, and Singapore is leading the way on this transition,” said Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute. “A new space race for the future of food is underway. As nations race to divorce meat production from industrial animal agriculture, countries that delay their investment in this bright food future risk getting left behind.”

Meanwhile, the North American Meat Institute said it doesn’t have a stance on cell-cultured meat other than to support federal oversight that ensures lab-grown, cultured meat and poultry products are “wholesome” and safe for eating and marketed in a way that allows for a “level playing field in the marketplace.”

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