SINGAPORE - Diners can soon get a taste of lab-grown chicken at a local butchery as Californian start-up Eat Just works to normalise the meat’s consumption and nudge consumer acceptance.
Come January, cultivated chicken kebab, fried cultivated chicken skin salad and cultivated chicken stew will be available as set meals at meat products producer and supplier Huber’s Butchery in Dempsey.
Cultivated meat is made by growing animal cells in a bioreactor instead of slaughtering animals.
The set meal, priced at $28, will be available once a week while supplies last.
Mr Josh Tetrick, co-founder and chief executive of food technology company Eat Just, said the team is working to make the cultivated chicken dishes a permanent feature on the menu, though this would depend on the scale of consumer demand.
Take-home cultivated chicken skewers could soon also be available if demand is favourable, he added.
Mr Tetrick told The Straits Times that offering cultivated chicken at a butchery was a strategic choice to help consumers see it as being on a par with real meat, and to help normalise its consumption.
Huber’s Butchery managing director Ryan Huber said: “When we founded our butcher shop, we made it our mission to provide top-quality and exceptional-tasting meat products with the highest food safety standards at an affordable price.
“Partnering with Eat Just’s cultivated meat division, Good Meat, is keeping with that vision and the realities of our ever-changing food system.”
The move comes after cultivated chicken was offered at several hawker stalls in 2021, including Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice in Tiong Bahru, to give consumers a taste of the meat when served in an everyday setting.
The cultivated chicken to be offered at Huber’s is Eat Just’s third iteration of the product. It has an improved texture and a “meaty quality” to it compared with the initial chicken nugget that was approved by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in 2020, Mr Tetrick said.
Eat Just has also developed capabilities to expand its product offerings – and is hoping to launch a wider array of products, such as chicken breast, he added.
In 2023, Eat Just will open a new $61 million meat production facility in Singapore, which can produce “tens of thousands of pounds” of lab-grown meat a year.
Currently, to price the cultivated meat at the same level as “high-quality chicken”, Eat Just has had to subsidise the cost of the cultivated chicken dishes to make them affordable for consumers.
But the new facility with a 6,000 litre bioreactor will help the company to rapidly scale up production and eventually cut costs, said Mr Tetrick.
“So ultimately the goal is to drive the cost (of cultivated chicken) below chicken, beef, and pork… so it’s even more cost-effective. And eventually, my goal before I die is for the majority of meat on this planet to be cultivated,” he added.
In 2023, the company is hoping to get approval from the SFA for cultivated beef, said Mr Tetrick.
To that end, Eat Just has collaborated with Japanese company Toriyama, which sells high-quality wagyu beef, to cultivate cells from its cows to create cell-cultured beef.