First regulatory approval for cultured meat – a major milestone

In December 2020, US company Eat Just were granted regulatory approval by the Singapore Food Agency for the sale of their chicken bites, which are produced by in vitro culture of chicken cells. This is the first time a cultured meat product has been approved for sale, and represents a major milestone for the cellular agriculture movement.

Chicken meat would appear to be an ideal first candidate lab-grown meat to commercialise. It has wide appeal – unlike pork and beef products, there are few cultural taboos associated with eating chicken – and it is familiar to consumers in a variety of different forms, including those closely-resembling Eat Just’s “chicken bites”. Also, taking into account intensive poultry rearing practices, the benefits in terms of animal welfare form a compelling part of the argument in support of cultured chicken meat.

Singapore has long been touted as the likely destination for the first sale of cultured meat products, in view of their progressive attitude to the technology and their proactive approach to establishing the supporting regulatory framework.

Is the future of meat animal-free?

Cellular agriculture is widely recognised as a promising, ethically-sound and more ecologically-friendly means to satisfy the world’s increasing demand for meat. Studies have suggested that lab-grown meat will use a fraction of the land, water and antibiotics used in traditional agricultural practices, and will be associated with dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Cellular agriculture companies are poised to take a big bite out of the market currently dominated by companies employing traditional animal agricultural practices.

Key technical obstacles to the widespread commercialisation of cultured meat products remain, but solutions to these challenges present commercial opportunities for companies innovating in this space. We expect to see an explosion of patent filings in this area – read more in our forecasting innovation blog.

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