“For the longest time, people thought about cultured meat as science fiction, as something that might only materialise in 50 years. But the fact is, you can go eat it right now.” – Josh Tetrick, CEO of Eat Just and Good Meat.
In December 2020, Singapore became the first government in the world to grant approval for the sale of cultured meat: meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells. The approval was granted to the US food company GOOD Meat, a division of Eat Just, which makes meat without deforestation or slaughter. They painlessly extract cells from an egg/living organism and then feed them into a clean, sterile environment, mirroring how an animal grows.
Good Meat cultivated chicken satay served with cucumber slaw, peanut sauce, Singapore bee hoon (stir-fried ricer vermicelli) and KEK signature tofu (Image credit: Eat, Just. Inc.)
Cultured meat dining FTW
About one and a half years after the grant approval, Eat Just’s GOOD Meat just launched its chicken satay with cultivated chicken cells at Michelin-plate hawker Keng Eng Kee (KEK) on 20th May. The company says this is the first time its new product has been served to the public. Located at 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, KEK is a popular family-run hawker store that was founded over 50 years ago.
A pop-up celebrating the launch over the weekend featured a special celebrity guest and cookbook author, Chef Francis Mallman, who runs nine restaurants and is famous for his open-fire cooking style that garnered him the moniker of “Carnivore King” (think hardcore smoke, fire, salt and meat). Despite being known for cooking whole animals on a fire pit, Mallman now supports GOOD Meat’s approach of producing meat from animal cells rather than slaughtered livestock. He has also become one of the world’s popular advocates for cultivated meat alongside José Andrés, a world-renowned humanitarian chef.
“I’m proud to eat their chicken and am excited to launch with them when ready in one of my restaurants in South America. We need romance in cooking and the hope of new seeds, and they are one of them,” said Mallman about GOOD Meat.
Francis Mallmann tasting the chicken satay at the popup event on May 20 (Image credit: Eat, Just. Inc.)
In an interview, he noted, “that in 30 more years, we won’t be eating any more animals.” He has also released the cookbook “Green Fire,” which focuses on grilling fruits and vegetables. He also plans to launch Good Meat at one of his restaurants in South America. It’s tricky for chefs (especially those at the top of the game) to ignore the ethical and environmental problems underlying animal meat. Having celebrity chefs like Mallman definitely helps push for the food revolution.
There’s more! GOOD Meat’s collaboration with KEK and Mallman is part of a series of pop-ups the company has organized in 2022 to shine a light on some of Singapore’s beloved hawker stalls whose livelihoods were jeopardized by a downturn in business during the pandemic. (The first pop-up was with Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice, a family-run business for 74 years, earlier this year.) Keep your eyes peeled!
Francis Mallmann at the popup event on May 20 (Image credit: Eat, Just. Inc.)
How it’s made
Cultivated meat is made from animal cells grown in a bioreactor. According to Eat Just, Inc., Good Meat’s San Francisco-based parent company, the cells are fed with nutrients including amino acids, fat and vitamins, similar to what is found in animal feed. No antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically-modified organisms are used during the process.
Green Is The New Black spoke with some of the wonderful people working behind the scenes in the laboratories. They shared about their two prototypes for chicken satay. How does the second prototype show up differently? Broadly speaking, flavours and textures. And how long is the regulation process, between the end of experimentation and getting it on the plate? The short answer is that it depends on the scale of the reactor/plant. There is heavy and regular testing: after the cells come from the bioreactor, they’re tested once. And once they’re processed, they need to be tested again.
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How’re meat-lovers responding to the cultured chicken satay?
Liz Courtney, a documentary filmmaker shared rather enthusiastically, “By 2050 we will double the production levels of food on our planet, so what can we do differently? How about harvesting Meat? I sat at a very special table for Earth Day in Singapore and shared an extraordinary meal with inspired solution makers, GOOD meat. (…) Here is the shape of future food – my plate of a delicious cultivated chicken nugget, and YES it was delicious to the very last crumb! We will always eat meat. To share the planet together, we have to do it differently!”
At the same table, we asked the rest what they thought of the meat. Raye Padit, founder of The Fashion Pulpit shared, “I was amazed at the taste and texture. I thought it was much lighter, tasted healthy and there was no grease, it was really easy to digest. So surprised it tasted just like chicken.”
Esther, from City Developments Limited (CDL), animatedly share: “Wow this is game-changing, this is truly the future. This chicken tastes amazing, I can’t tell it’s different; so well cooked and prepared.”
Stephanie Bovis shared, “This is a whole evolution in the thought process of food. A lot of the food we eat is grown right? So why should we not grow meat? I think we just hadn’t thought about this before and now that we have an issue, we can think about this and make a difference. It might not seem logical to us now but fast forward 20-30 years, our future generations will be completely eased into it. It’s a whole new food revolution.”
Francis Mallmann preparing the chicken satay plate (Image credit: Eat, Just. Inc.)
A growing appetite for real chicken minus the slaughter and footprint.
(Yes, GOOD Meat is real meat.)
> In Singapore, the sales of “free-from-meat” frozen meat substitutes grew by 26.7 per cent between 2019 and 2020, as compared to traditional meat’s 7.4 per cent growth, according to Euromonitor International.
> 2020’s Asia Alternative Protein Industry Report – New Decade, New Protein, published by Green Queen Media, the first in-depth report in Asia about plant-based, cultivated and whole-food meat, seafood and dairy alternatives across the region concluded that the sector’s fastest-growing globally, with annual growth, predicted to be 9.3% until 2026.
> Alternative protein might just prevent the next health crisis because it reduces the risk of zoonotic outbreaks. It’s directly answering one of the biggest fears that the coronavirus has triggered—infectious diseases being transmitted from non-humans to humans. Zoonotic diseases such as the coronavirus don’t happen by accident. They happen because of what we do: cramming animals into tiny spaces, disrupting natural habitats and stacking cages on top of each other in wet markets.
Addressing myths/concerns of consumers
#1: Cultured meat is unrealistic science fiction and will only appear in the future. It is here, it is now. And more companies and consumers need to help expand this industry to a sustainable and steady one.
#2: Cultured meat will never be at the cost of conventional meat. The fact is any new category is going to be expensive at first because you haven’t yet got a large enough production scale. But as you begin to make more of it, the cost comes down and eventually, cultured meat will be at a lower cost than conventional meat.
#3: The cultured meat industry will harm farmers in the traditional meat industry. If farmers are left to fend for themselves, then yes. But with sufficient support, they could be reoriented to a livelihood that is, in fact, not as unpredictable and devastating as their current one: with growing climate deviations, farming is only bound to get more expensive. For example, GOOD Meat works with a group of Wagyu beef farmers in Japan to produce a cultured Wagyu beef product. And when the beef hits the market, they receive a percentage of the royalties. Of course, a pro-labour approach is essential for this bumpy transition.
FEATURED IMAGE: GOOD Meat cultivated chicken satay being cooked over charcoal (Photo: Eat Just, Inc.)
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