By Monika Ghosh and Sharon Lewis This article is the last of a four-part Tech’s Year in Review series reviewing developments across industries in 2020. It discusses the world of healthtech and biotech, foodtech and agritech, and sustainability. This article is the last of a four-part [...]
Eat Just’s cultured chicken will be sold to restaurants in Singapore under its new GOOD Meat brand, before becoming available directly to consumers.
U.S.-based Eat Just, Inc., has received approval for the sale of its cell-cultured chicken in Singapore, the startup announced in a press release yesterday. The approval granted by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) made Singapore the world’s first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat, the press release said. SFA is Singapore’s regulatory authority that ensures a safe food supply.
The company’s cultured chicken will be produced under its new GOOD Meat brand, the statement noted. Eat Just’s chicken will be sold to restaurants before becoming available to consumers. The startup is yet to disclose details of GOOD Meat’s commercial launch in Singapore.
Additionally, the startup has developed other cultured chicken formats that will be an extension to its current product line, the statement noted.
During its consultation and review period with SFA, Eat Just entered into strategic partnerships with local manufacturers, the statement said. The aim is to ensure production of its cultured chicken and to formulate the finished product ahead of its first restaurant sale, it added.
Founded in 2011, California-based Eat Just is best known for its plant-based egg products. To meet the demand for JUST egg products in Asia, the startup announced its plans to build and operate a plant protein production facility in Singapore in October 2020. Just Eat entered into a partnership with a consortium led by Proterra Investment Partners Asia for the project.
The startup also offers cultured meat like Wagyu beef, and egg-free mayonnaise.
How Eat Just Produces Cultured Chicken
Eat Just’s cell-based chicken is produced by sourcing cells from a live chicken through methods such as biopsies, TechCrunch reported. No chickens are slaughtered to obtain the cells used to produce Eat Just’s cultured meat, Eat Just’s Global Head of Communications Andew Noyes told TechCrunch.
The isolated cells are transferred to a bioreactor, fed with a proprietary mix of proteins, amino acids, minerals, sugars, salts and other nutrients. They are harvested after they achieve a sufficient density, the TechCrunch report added.
Eat Just’s team of scientists, product developers and regulatory experts prepared extensive documentation on the characterization of its cultured chicken and the process to produce it for the approval, the statement noted. The documentation included details on the purity, identity and stability of chicken cells during the manufacturing process, it added.
In order to win the SFA’s approval for its cultured chicken, the startup had to meet the food safety requirements of novel foods, the statement noted. The approval was thus granted after a rigorous consultation and review process.
Additionally, the company also had to show a consistent manufacturing process for its product. To that end, Eat Just ran 20 production runs in 1,200-liter bioreactors, the statement added.
The safety and quality validations indicated that Eat Just’s harvested cultured chicken met the standards of poultry meat, with extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content than poultry chicken, the statement also said.
Moreover, the analysis also indicated that Eat Just’s chicken has a high protein content, diversified amino acid composition, relatively higher content of monounsaturated fats and is a rich source of minerals, the startup claims.
In addition to SFA’s approval, Eat Just’s cultured chicken was also confirmed to be safe and nutritious for human consumption by an outside panel of international scientific authorities in Singapore and the U.S., the statement noted. The panel consisted experts in medicine, toxicology, allergenicity, cell biology and food safety.
Co-founder and CEO of Eat Just Josh Tetrick said in the statement, “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. I’m sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe.”
“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,” he added.
The Vast Opportunity For Cell-based Chicken
Feeding nearly 10 billion mouths by 2050 is a mounting challenge. This is especially because food insecurity already impacts over 2 billion people across the globe. And nearly 690 million people battle with hunger, according to data from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The adverse effects of COVID-19 is expected to add up to 132 million people to this number, the data shows.
Besides, the global demand for beef and other ruminant meats is estimated to grow by 88% between 2010 and 2050. Meeting this demand would require pasturelands the size of India, according to the World Economic Forum. Additionally, it would also require extensive deforestation which would further exacerbate the climate crisis, and increase emissions from animals themselves.
To solve this problem, startups such as Eat Just have been working to create plant- and cell-based meat products over the last few years. This includes Singapore-based Shiok Meats which is developing cell-based crustacean meat.
Header image courtesy of Eat Just, Inc.