Home Business Good Meat sells lab-grown cultured chicken in world-first

Good Meat sells lab-grown cultured chicken in world-first

You’d know a chicken nugget if you saw one, right? How about one grown from a single cell, with no animals harmed in the process?

Josh Tetrick is betting not.

He is trying to win over consumers with his lab-grown chicken bite following the world’s first approval of his company’s cultured chicken in Singapore at the end of 2020.

“We have the freedom to sell across Singapore, whether retail, food service, hawkers, you name it,” Tetrick told CNBC Make It.

Starting with an egg

The idea was … to start a food company that takes the animal, the live animal, out of the equation of the food system.

Josh Tetrick

founder and CEO, Eat Just

“I had less than $3,000 in my bank account, and the idea was: We’re going to start a food company that takes the animal, the live animal, out of the equation of the food system,” he said.

Tetrick, who started his career working for non-profit organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, wanted to fix what he saw as one of the world’s biggest problems: Food sustainability. 

And for him, the egg came first. 

“We decided the place that we’re going to start is figuring out a way to make an egg, a chicken egg, from a plant,” he said. “All I knew at the time is there were 375,000 species of plants all over the world, and I bet that one of them could scramble like an egg.”

Winning investor support

Investors liked his vision. Shortly after he founded the company, billionaire tech investor Vinod Khosla and his business partner Samir Kaul were on board, and invested $500,000 in the idea.

“That was enough to get me off the couch,” said Tetrick. “I started hiring food scientists and biochemists and molecular biologists, analytical chemists, chefs.”

JUST Egg, a plant-based egg substitute created by Californian food company Eat Just.

Eat Just

What we wanted to do next was real chicken and beef, but not from plants.

Josh Tetrick

founder and CEO, Eat Just

“What we wanted to do next was real chicken and beef, but not from plants,” said Tetrick.

“Real chicken and real beef that didn’t require killing an animal, that didn’t require using a single drop of antibiotics. And that’s broadly a process called cellular agriculture.”

How to create cultured meat

Cultured meat is created by extracting a single cell from an animal, either through a biopsy, a cell bank, a piece of meat or a feather.

CNBC

The process takes around 14 days from start to finish, and the end product is raw minced meat.

Creating the cell-cultured meat product was the easy part. The harder part was obtaining regulatory approvals, which took two years.

Toward the end of 2020, Singapore became the first country to approve Eat Just’s flagship cultured chicken nuggets for sale nationwide under the Good Meat brand. 

The chicken nugget is now available at Singapore restaurant 1880, retailing at around $17 for a set meal. More restaurants in the city-state are expected to come on board in the coming months.  

Singapore takes the world’s first bite

Singapore being the hub in Asia actually helps those companies be able to export … to other countries.

Aileen Supriyadi

senior research analyst, Euromonitor International

“Singapore has the 30 by 30 initiative, so the country wants to have 30% of the food to be produced locally (by 2030),” she told CNBC Make It.

“Singapore can also utilize the scientific knowledge, especially the stem cell research. And Singapore being the hub in Asia actually helps those companies be able to export and sell their products to other countries as well.”

Revolutionizing animal agriculture

Chickens stored indoors in a meat production facility

WOJTEK RADWANSKI | AFP | Getty Images

Industrialized animal production is probably the strangest and most bizarre thing happening, you’re just not aware.

Josh Tetrick

founder and CEO, Eat Just

Then there are those who just find the concept odd. 

“I say to them that industrialized animal production is probably the strangest and most bizarre thing happening, you’re just not aware of it. If there’s a way that we can do it better, let’s get after it,” said Tetrick.  

Growing appetite for alternatives

The alternative meat industry is forecast to be worth $140 billion by 2029.

CNBC

“In Asia-Pacific, it’s actually quite big,” Supriyadi said of alternative meat. “In 2020 itself, the market size has reached about $800 million. So potentially with lower price, with greater knowledge, consumers will be more interested to purchase meat alternative products.”

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are among the names making waves in the plant-based meat space, while brands like Memphis Meats are tapping cultured products. Tetrick said he welcomes the competition.

“I want companies to come in and be a part of solving the problem,” he said. “I hope someone … decides I think I can do it better than this dude who didn’t have any experience of food technology before he started this.”

Preparing to go global

However, disrupting the dominance of the established animal agriculture industry will not happen overnight.

“The limiting steps to ultimately making this ubiquitous are regulatory approval, scale and consumer education,” noted Tetrick. “We can’t just focus on one, we’ve got to focus on all three.”

At some point, we’ll decide to go public. This won’t happen without a lot of capital, there’s no getting around it.

Josh Tetrick

founder and CEO, Eat Just