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SINGAPORE – Singapore has given U.S. startup Eat Just approval to sell its lab-grown chicken meat, in what the firm said is the world’s first regulatory approval for meat that does not come from slaughtered animals.

The meat, to be sold as nuggets, will be priced at premium chicken prices when it first launches in a restaurant in Singapore “in the very near term,” co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick said.

Demand for alternatives to regular meat is surging due to concerns about health, animal welfare and the environment. Plant-based substitutes, popularized by the likes of Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Quorn, are increasing sales in groceries and restaurants.

But so-called “clean” or “cultured” meat, which is grown from animal muscle cells in a lab, is still at a very early stage due to high production costs.

Singapore, a city state of 5.7 million, currently only produces about 10% of its food but has set out ambitious plans to raise that over the next decade by supporting high-tech farming and new means of food production.

Tetrick said the San Francisco-based firm was also talking to U.S. regulators but that Singapore was a “good bit” ahead of the United States.

“I would imagine what will happen is the U.S., Western Europe and others will see what Singapore has been able to do, the rigors of the framework that they put together. And I would imagine that they will try to use it as a template to put their own framework together,” he said in an interview.

The Singapore Food Agency said Wednesday it reviewed data relating to process, manufacturing control and safety testing before granting approval.

Eat Just said it will manufacture the product in Singapore, where it also plans to start making a mung bean-based egg substitute it has been selling commercially in the United States.

Founded in 2011, Eat Just counts Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and Singapore state investor Temasek among its backers. It has raised more than $300 million since its inception, Tetrick said, and is valued at roughly $1.2 billion.