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Singapore Green Lights Lab-Grown Meat from American Firm Eat Just Inc.

(Noted News) — In what is thought to be the world’s first regulatory sign-off of lab-grown meat, Singaporean officials have approved San Francisco-based company Eat Just Inc. to sell their products in the South Asian city-state. 

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) granted legal approval to Eat Just to create cell-cultured chicken in eventual cooperation with local manufacturers who will then sell to restaurants.

Andrew Noyes, head of communications at Eat Just can confirm that no animals are harmed in the making of their chicken products; instead of raising and slaughtering chickens, lab-grown chickens begin with the isolation of a chicken cell via a biopsy from a live animal. Then the cells are cultured and transferred into a bioreactor. Then begins a process by which the cells are fed with a special proprietary mix of minerals, proteins, amino acids, sugars, salts, and other nutrients so that it grows into what appears to be a piece of meat. Once the desired texture and density is achieved at a certain point, the specimens are removed and prepared for packaging. 

According to Eat Just, they needed to go through 20 separate trial product runs in 1,200-liter bioreactors to tweak the product and prove the effectiveness of their manufacturing process, which has an “extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than conventional chicken.”

Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick said that “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.” 

The Singaporean state is in the middle of its “30 by 30” project, which aims to produce at least 30% of its food supply by the year 2030, rather than continue to import 90% of its food and be vulnerable to sanctions or shipping logistic issues. The SFA and the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research have also contributed to the effort by making $144 million SGD available for research and development.

Eat Just also announced last month that it was partnering with Proterra Investment Partners Asia to create an Asian subsidiary of their company which will use a factory in Singapore partially funded by the Singaporean government’s Economic Development board. 

Just like in the U.S.—where the demand and acceptability for meat alternatives such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Amy’s is rising—the Asian market is also open-minded to the trend. The era of hyper-aware hygiene ushered in by COVID-19 has stirred up some concerns about the health and safety of many slaughterhouses, and the more controlled, scientific environment of lab-grown meat and meat alternatives is comforting to many. 

Tetrick said that Singapore is actually ahead of the U.S. on this trend.

“I would imagine what will happen is the U.S., Western Europe, and others will see what Singapore has been able to do, the rigors 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.”

Eat Just has also launched alternative eggs and mayonnaise, and is developing lab-grown beef derived from Toriyama Wagyu cows in Japan. Of the beef, their website states, 

“As with any other product, the first step is an extensive research and development phase, followed by scale-up, testing, regulatory approvals, and launching a finished product to the public. Ultimately, with a few cells from the best cows in the world, we’ll be able to bring the Toriyama family’s tradition to millions more—building a healthier, stronger, and more just food system along the way.”

Eat Just was founded back in 2011, and has gained considerable backing since then, including Hong Kong philanthropist Li Ka-Shing, the 30th richest person in the world, and Singapore government-owned investment firm Temasek. To date, the company has received roughly $300 million in funding and is worth $1.2 billion.

One of the main competitors fighting Eat Just for a spot in the growing, nascent industry is Berkeley-based Memphis Meats, who also received funding from Temasek, and enjoys support from Bill Gates and Richard Branson. 

Eat Just hopes to get their chicken on the menu of a restaurant soon, reach profitability, and then go public by the end of 2021. 

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