Singapore approves sale of lab-grown meat in a global first

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Singapore has given US startup 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.

Due to consumer concerns regarding health, animal welfare and the environment, the demand for alternatives to regular meat is increasing. On supermarket shelves and restaurant menus, plant-based meat options, popularized by American brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are increasingly available.

But because of high production costs, so-called clean or cultured meat, which is grown from animal muscle cells in a laboratory, is still at a nascent stage.

“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,” Eat Just said recently.

The company said the meat was going to be sold as nuggets and had previously estimated the cost at $50 each.

But Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO, said the cost has since decreased and the meat will be priced at parity to premium chicken when it first launches in a restaurant in Singapore “in the very near term.” He declined to provide specific data or costs. By the end of 2021, the business is targeting operational profitability, and plans to go public soon after, Mr. Tetrick added.

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 is estimated to be worth $140 billion by 2029.

Farming livestock for their meat has a vast environmental footprint. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degradation and deforestation. Livestock farming contributes around 20 percent of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, thus contributing to climate change.