Lab-grown Chicken to be Sold in Singaporefood

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Take a look at the ingredient list on some of the processed foods you consume. More likely than not, youā€™ll find chemical compounds that are hard to pronounce. Yet, we readily consume things like sodium acid pyrophosphate and thiamine mononitrate.

If you can consume these ā€œunnaturalā€ ingredients commonly found in chicken nuggets, would you consider eating lab-grown chicken?

Lab-grown or cultured chicken will soon be sold in Singapore, after food technology start-up Eat Just received the all-clear to sell the product here.

The chicken meat is developed in laboratories using animal cells, and was manufactured at the Food Innovation and Resource Centre, a food research facility by Singapore Polytechnic and Enterprise Singapore.

The announcement was made on 2 December that Eat Justā€™s cultured chicken was given ā€œfirst-in-the-world regulatory approvalā€ by Singapore authorities. The chicken will be used as an ingredient in its nugget product to be launched at a later date.

Eat Just is known for its plant-based egg substitutes and said that no antibiotics were used in its product. It also commented that its lab-grown chicken was found to have ā€œextremely low and significantly cleaner microbiological contentā€ than regular chicken.

They also claim that their chicken contains ā€œhigh protein content, diversified amino acid composition, high relative content in healthy monounsaturated fats and is a rich source of mineralsā€.

Could a vegetarian eat lab-grown chicken?

Reactions to the lab-grown chicken have been quite positive. Many see growing meat in a lab as a viable alternative to farming, which takes up massive amounts of land, and would have less of an environmental impact (less pollution and smaller carbon footprint).

Of course, there are also commentors on Reddit who have been wondering about the classification of the meat product ā€“ would chicken grown in a lab be considered vegetarian?

u/kwpang contends that lab-grown meat can be considered vegetarian, since no animals are harmed in the manufacturing process. For argumentā€™s sake, he said ā€œonly the original (or “seed”) cells are non-vegetarian because they were obtained from a living animal.ā€ The subsequent cells produced by replicating the original cells can technically be considered vegetarian if they are grown in a plant-based culture.

But u/trash_throwaway disagrees that lab-grown meat on its own is already not a vegetable, and therefore shouldnā€™t be in the same realm of consumables by vegetarians. He does suggest, however, that new terminology can be introduced: slaughter-free meat.

Is this halal?

Then there is the religious consideration behind lab-grown meat ā€“ since no slaughter is involved, would lab-grown meat already be halal?

The topic is not new to debate, and has already spurred scholastic research and papers in Islamic-led journals, although the papers take various factors into account.

u/hopeinson pointed out that in the process of manufacturing lab-grown meat, the extraction of stem cells needed for culturing could be classified as carrion meat, according to a Hadith in the Quran, which states that any portion cut from an animal when it is alive is considered dead meat.

There is no word yet from MUIS on whether Eat Justā€™s products could carry halal certification in the future.

It does, however, look like meat substitutes is the way of the future. ChannelNewsAsia reported that there has been a boost of local protein replacement start-ups recently. Two companies that have made headlines just this month are Float Foods, who will be introducing their legume-based egg substitute by Q1 of 2022, and Shiok Meats who has managed to cultivate lab-grown lobster meat. They are also set to launch in 2022.


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