Honey, have another piece of chicken. They were just plucked from the bioreactor an hour ago. This scene is not far off now that the Singapore Food Agency has approved the sale of startup Eat Just’s lab-grown chicken in that country.
What’s this all about, now?
Well, Eat Just is a California-based company that is best known for its plant-based egg substitute. Now, they have diversified into chicken grown from poultry cells in the lab.
Cultured meat. Lab-grown meat made from culture cells is made by taking stem cells from the fat or muscle of an animal and putting them in a culture which feeds and grows the cells. The final step is putting the culture in a bioreactor for further growth. Josh Tetrick, Eat Just’s CEO, compares the process to brewing beer, but you get nuggets instead of suds.
New space race for the future of food
The move by Singapore will probably lead to competitors bum rushing the country as well as other Asian countries following Singapore’s lead in approving cultured meat.
Good Food Institute Executive Director Bruce Friedrich called it “a new space race for the future of food.” That’s not exaggeration – plant-based meat alternatives and start-ups in the cultured meat space like Eat Just, Future Meat Technologies and Memphis Meats (funded by Bill Gates) assert that alternative meats are healthier and safer for the environment.
Is this going to be at Mickey D’s anytime soon?
Sorry, probably not. The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversee cell-based meat and don’t seem to be open just yet. Also, like plant-based meat, traditional meat producers and their lobbies, like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association will be trying to kabosh the approvals.
A $280,000 cultured meat burger. They also have to bring the production costs down. In 2013, a hamburger from Dutch start-up Mosa Meat cost $280,000 per patty to make. Costs have come down since then as the scale has increased, but it’s still a work in progress. Eat Just uses 1,000-liter bioreactors for its cell-cultured chicken, and according to Tetrick its products will be priced similar to premium chicken.
And, lastly, how does the cultured meat taste? Word has it, just like chicken.