Eat Just, a San Francisco-based food technology startup, founded in 2011, has been given “first-in-the-world regulatory approval” by Singapore authorities to sell its product in the city-state. It will be used as an ingredient in its “chicken bites” or nuggets which the company plans to launch at a later date.
According to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) which made public the new guidelines to ensure the safety of food inventions, it would likely be the first time globally that a cultured meat product is sold commercially.
The startup which is known for its plant-based egg substitutes, said no antibiotics were used in its product. Cultured or cell-based meat is meat developed in laboratories using animal cells.
The company said that safety tests found that its cultured chicken had “extremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological content” than traditional chicken. The analysis also demonstrated that cultured chicken contains a high protein content, diversified amino acid composition, high relative content in healthy monounsaturated fats and is a rich source of minerals.
In a media release, the company said it took “many months” for its team of scientists, product developers and regulation experts to record the cultured chicken’s production process – information which is required under SFA rules.
The cultured chicken was manufactured at the Food Innovation and Resource Centre, a food research facility co-run by Singapore Polytechnic and Enterprise Singapore.
Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, 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, as he explained why Singapore was chosen as the first location to launch its chicken product.
He said in a statement that their regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe, adding also that his company is looking to offer the product at a restaurant first before distributing it to the mass market, adding that it will be priced similar to what consumers pay for “premium chicken” at restaurants.
The company said it plans to introduce other cultured chicken products in future.
In October, Eat Just, announced a partnership with private equity firm Proterra Investment Partners Asia to build a USD120 million plant-protein factory in Singapore – the company’s first in Asia.
Bloomberg reported that the egg-substitute maker, which counts business tycoon Li Ka-Shing and venture capital firms Khosla Ventures among its investors, is attempting to raise at least USD200 million that may give it a USD2 billion valuation, in what could be its last fundraising round before going public.
Meat substitutes have become more popular in the past few years, fuelled by growing concerns about the environmental impact of animal farming and the sustainability of meat production as global population rises.
A 2019 report by Barclays predicted that the global alternative meat market, currently valued at USD14 billion – or 1% of the USD1.4 trillion meat industry – could be worth 10 times more at about USD140 billion by 2029.
Local protein replacement start-ups have also recently gained ground.