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Meet the new Meat

In December 2020, the first lab-grown meat product was approved in Singapore, making its restaurant debut a few weeks later. Abi Millar asks if now is the time for cultured meat – billed as an ethical alternative to farmed meat – to start gaining traction?

A few days before Christmas, a group of diners sat down at a swanky Singapore restaurant for a four-course dinner. The menu, which included a bao bun with chicken and spring onion, along with a crispy maple waffle with chicken and hot sauce, perhaps didn’t sound like the kind of thing that would make history. Yet one of the diners, a 12-year-old pioneer, described the chicken as “the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen or ever tasted. It’s definitely made me see how small things, like just changing the way we eat, can literally change our entire lives.”

The chicken in question, which was branded as GOOD Meat and launched at the 1880 private members’ club, was nutritionally and functionally the same as normal chicken. It tasted like chicken too – “because it is,” according to the GOOD Meat website. However, no hens were harmed in its making. Rather, this was cultured chicken – grown in a lab from cells on a chicken’s feather, without requiring the slaughter of a single bird.

Eat Just, the San Francisco startup responsible, was the first cultured meat company to reach this milestone, but is far from the only one on the track. The late Dutch scientist Willem van Eelen, widely regarded as the ‘godfather of cultured meat’, studied cell culture techniques from the 1950s onwards and filed several patents from the late ‘90s.

Read the rest of this article in the March-May 2021 edition of Overseas

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