No roaming cattle but with high-tech labs, could Singapore be a ‘meat’ exporter?

24 February 2021

A report suggests that the alternative meat market size could grow to 140 billion U.S. dollars in a decade, capturing 10% of the global meat industry. Despite being a tiny city-state, Singapore is well-poised to capitalise on this rapidly growing trend. Singapore, a gateway to the rest of Asia, could potentially become a lab-grown meat hub for several reasons: strong intellectual property laws, high-quality talent pool, proximity to agriculture exporters, and support from local authorities. In fact, Singapore is the first country in the world to grant a regulatory approval for cellular meat. This move is part of a larger national strategy, whereby the country aims to produce 30% of its nutritional need by 2030. This approach has already attracted a number of international alternative protein producers to Singapore. Eat Just, a San Francisco-based producer, is planning to make the country home to its Asia-Pacific headquarters. Perfect Day, a Californian dairy-substitute maker, is launching a local research lab this April.

A supportive ecosystem does not only attract international players, but also fosters the development of local start-ups. Gaia Foods, founded by two researchers who met at Duke – NUS Medical School, aims to create structured beef and pork products. The texture of meat is replicated by growing animal cells on thin plant-based surfaces. The company hopes to launch its first commercial product in three-four years at restaurants at a price close to that of traditional meat today. This would then serve as a platform for the brand to go mass market. Today, a kilogramme of cellular meat costs an astronomical 6,000 Singapore dollars, due to the expensive animal serum and nutrients that go into it. However, plant-based serum and nutrients, currently in development, are hoped to drive the price down substantially.

The alternative protein market is currently dominated by pioneers, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, whose products can be found in supermarkets and fast-food chains. The incumbents are also eager to get a slice of the pie. Both Cargill and Tyson Foods, leading meat producers, have launched their own line of alternative protein products in the past two years and have invested in Memphis Meats, a U.S. cellular meat maker. Given the growing protein demands, industry analysts also expect China to deregulate the market in the near future allowing cell-based protein manufacturers to provide nutrition for its population. The biggest challenge for alternative protein, however, is getting consumers’ buy-in. While there is some resistance to lab-grown meat among the consumers, alternative protein industry has a bright future if it can develop a product that can match conventional meat products in price and flavour.

Read the article on the Channel News Asia website.

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