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Lab-grown “chicken” has just been approved for sale in Singapore. But why?

Meat is a staple in the daily diet of billions around the world everyday. However, the global meat industry as a whole has been linked to various public health issues, while there are also hazards and ethical concerns regarding the breeding of livestock and poultry, such as chickens.

Chickens, in particular, are commonly bred in tightly packed warehouses to meet the increasing demand (for chicken nuggets, probably)—and meat consumption is expected to increase by over 70 percent in the next 30 years or so. To combat the problem, there is, of course, the obvious answer: veganism. Or, there are plant-based meats like the Impossible Burger, which are made of plant proteins to emulate the taste of meat.

But what if there was a way to consume meat—real meat on a cellular level—without contributing to meat consumption around the world? Enter Eat Just, and the Singaporean government’s latest move to approve lab-grown, cultured chicken for sale in the country as an ingredient for chicken bites.

Is lab-grown chicken… real meat?

Yes. Or at least, technically, it’s real chicken meat. Cells are taken from an actual chicken (who doesn’t need to die in the process), and immersed in a “growth medium” solution. The cells are left to multiply inside a bioreactor, until it becomes large (and complete) enough to be sold as chicken meat. Of course, you won’t have live, fully-grown chickens within the bioreactors—just chicken meat.

The Singapore Food Agency (SFA)’s approval means that this is the first time any regulatory agency in the world has green-lit the sale of lab-grown chicken to the public. According to Business Wire, this is part of the effort to create a “safer, more secure global food supply”, while providing a more environmentally-friendly way to meet the increasing global demand for meat.

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As reported by Today Online, Andrew Noyes, Head of Global Communications at Eat Just, explained that their cultured chicken has a “lower microbiological content that conventional chicken”. This means that the lab-grown meat is reportedly safer to consume, while being a more sustainable option for the environment. Noyes also told the Singaporean daily that cultured meat requires less land and water than the conventional meat industry, which means that greenhouse emissions are notably lower as well.

SOURCE: Business Wire

Today’s regulatory achievement involved an iterative and extensive safety review by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), Singapore’s regulatory authority entrusted with ensuring a safe food supply. During this process, Eat Just complied with SFA’s food safety requirements for the assessment of novel foods. In addition, Eat Just’s cultured chicken was confirmed to be safe and nutritious for human consumption by a distinguished outside panel of international scientific authorities in Singapore and the United States, with expertise in medicine, toxicology, allergenicity, cell biology and food safety.

For now, Eat Just hasn’t confirmed a timeline for when Singaporeans can expect to have a meal of chicken(ish) nuggets. The lab-grown meat will be used as an ingredient for chicken bites initially, although different chicken products are expected in the future. In the meantime, the company says that the SFA’s approval means that they can prepare for the launch of its new Good Meat brand—although again, no concrete timeline has been provided.