Lab-grown chicken to be sold in Singapore

US start-up Eat Just says its 'cultured meat' will be an ingredient in nuggets

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Lab-grown chicken will soon be available in restaurants in Singapore, after its government became the first to allow the sale of meat created without slaughtering any animals.

On Wednesday, US start-up Eat Just said its meat was approved for sale in the city-state as an ingredient in chicken nuggets.

The company said it marked a "breakthrough for the global food industry" as companies try to find less environmentally harmful ways of producing meat.

"I'm sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe," Josh Tetrick, co-founder and chief executive of Eat Just, said.

The consumption of regular meat poses an environmental problem because cattle produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, while clearing forests to make way for animals destroys natural barriers against climate change.

Demand for sustainable alternatives to meat is increasing owing to consumer pressure, but other products in the market are plant-based.

Companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Quorn have made plant-based alternatives popular and they are a more common sight on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.

There were concerns lab-grown varieties would be too expensive, but a spokesman for Eat Just said the company made "considerable progress" in lowering the cost.

"Right from the start we will be at price parity for premium chicken at a high-end restaurant," he told AFP.

He did not reveal the price of the nuggets but said they would be introduced at a restaurant in Singapore soon, before products such as lab-grown chicken breasts are brought out.

Eat Just said it hoped to make the products cheaper than conventional chicken in the coming years, the spokesman said.

The company conducted more than 20 production runs in 1,200-litre bioreactors to make the chicken alternative and checks on safety and quality showed its cultured product – the term for meat grown in labs using animal cells – met food standards.

Meat consumption is projected to increase by more than 70 per cent by 2050 and lab-grown alternatives have a role to play in ensuring a safe, secure food supply, Eat Just said.

"Working in partnership with the broader agriculture sector and forward-thinking policymakers, companies like ours can help meet the increased demand for animal protein as our population climbs to 9.7 billion by 2050," Mr Tetrick said.

The Singapore Food Agency said it approved the sale of the lab-grown chicken developed by Eat Just after concluding it was safe for consumption.

The agency said it put in place a framework for "novel foods" that do not have a history of being consumed by human beings to ensure safety standards are met before they go on sale.

Singapore became a hub for the development of sustainable foods in recent years, with start-ups concocting dishes suited to Asian palates.

These include lab-grown "seafood" and dumplings made using tropical fruit instead of pork.