SINGAPORE – A commercial facility that produces chicken products by cell culture instead of slaughter has already started operations in Singapore, the Straits Times has learned.
Esco Aster’s Ayer Rajah Crescent factory, a local contract development and manufacturing organization, received approval and began production of cell culture chicken in July – a world first.
This could pave the way for new protein alternatives to enter the Singapore market and strengthen the Republic’s food security.
In December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) was the first regulator in the world to approve the sale of a cultivated meat product – bite-sized chicken from Eat Just, a California start-up. – after being deemed safe for consumption. .
Eat Just’s Good Meat cultured chicken is available here through Madame Fan’s foodpanda delivery platform, the Cantonese restaurant at JW Marriott Singapore South Beach.
On July 28, Esco Aster received approval from the SFA to produce farmed chicken for commercial use. A spokesperson for SFA added: “This is the same farmed chicken that was previously approved by SFA in 2020.”
ST understands that prior to this approval, Eat Just’s Cultured Chicken Bites could not be made in Singapore.
Cultured meat refers to meat products made from animal cells growing in a bioreactor – similar to the vats used for brewing beer – instead of slaughtering real chickens.
This is considered to be a more sustainable method of meat production, as large volumes can be produced involving less land and labor.
Esco Aster is a subsidiary of the Esco Lifescience group, which has supplied tools and technologies such as bioreactors to companies in the alternative protein industry.
The company is also focused on providing manufacturing services in the areas of vaccine development and cell or gene therapy, among others.
This experience helped Esco Aster design the manufacturing plant to the standards required by the SFA for food production, its general manager Lin Xiangliang told ST on Wednesday (September 15th).
In Singapore, companies producing cultured meat products must complete and submit safety assessments of their products for review by the SFA before they are allowed for sale.
These assessments cover potential food safety risks, including the toxicity and safety of production methods. Detailed information on the materials used in the manufacturing processes and how these are controlled to prevent food safety risks should also be provided, the SFA spokesperson added.
Companies wishing to manufacture these approved products in Singapore must obtain a separate SFA license.
“If companies want to make alternative protein products already approved in Singapore, as with any other food, they must obtain an SFA license and are subject to SFA checks of premises, systems and products,” the carrier said. word of the SFA.
“SFA will also inspect and sample the product for testing, just as we do for other imported and locally produced food products.”
Eat Just Cultured Chicken Bites are the only cultivated meat product currently approved for sale in Singapore.
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for Eat Just declined to give details of Esco Aster’s production facility, saying the company does not comment on details of its partnerships.
But he added, “We have several production partners for Good Meat and look forward to expanding our business in Singapore, which will be a manufacturing hub for the company. “
Cultured chicken Eat Just’s Good Meat is being evaluated by regulatory authorities in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and the Middle East, a spokesperson for Eat Just said, adding that the company planned to set up a meat factory grown in the Middle East. East and North Africa region.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, alternative proteins are gaining traction globally amid growing awareness of the massive carbon footprint of livestock farming for the food, which produces about 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
But since this is an emerging field, with Singapore being the only country to have approved the sale of such products here, many cultured meat products are produced in smaller facilities and laboratories on a smaller scale.
A commercial plant in Singapore, however, could help increase production of these alternative proteins more quickly once they are approved for sale here, and lower costs.
Mr. Lin said, “The manufacturing license will allow alternative protein companies to produce small batches of cell culture food products approved for commercial launch in the Singapore market.”
Ms Mirte Gosker, acting chief executive of the nonprofit The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific – which advocates for alternatives to traditional meat products – said: “This decision is the clearest sign to date that the city Lion is very much into increasing alternative proteins and driving Asia’s dazzling leader in the field of food technology.
“Other countries would be wise to follow Singapore’s lead by investing in this smarter way of making meat before they are left behind.”
In April, ST announced that more than 15 alternative protein start-ups – including those studying cell-grown and plant-grown meats – have moved to Singapore.
A recent report from the Good Food Institute also found that a record US $ 3.1 billion (S $ 4.1 billion) was invested in alternative proteins around the world last year – three times the capital raised in 2019.