Lab-grown chicken and the start of a potential shift in meat’s environmental impact
Published December 11, 2020
US-based start-up Eat Just has become the first company to receive approval to sell lab-grown chicken, beginning in Singapore.
“It could be the start of a big shift in the environmental impact of meat,” said Nick Fedson, Sustainability Analyst at Alfa Energy Group. “The operational emissions are greatly reduced when compared to breeding, rearing, and slaughtering animals.”
Unlike plant-based meat options, lab-grown, or cultured, meat is created in a lab using cells of animal muscle through a complex process. In order for Eat Just’s product to be approved for sale in Singapore, it had to undergo a two-year approval process and meet food safety requirements.
The company is seeking approval for its lab-grown chicken in other countries as well. In the meantime, it will be available in the form of chicken nuggets in just one restaurant in Singapore under the company’s GOOD Meat brand.
Cultured meat came about as a result of the need to create a more sustainable and ethical food supply.
According to ourworldindata.org, we consume three times the amount of meat we did 50 years ago. Poultry production is increasing the most rapidly and has gone from 8.95 million tonnes in 1961 to 346.14 million tonnes in 2018. Consumption of meat is projected to increase by more than 70% by 2050.
About 80% of deforestation globally is due to agriculture, which includes livestock and animal feed, according to Greenpeace. The BBC recently reported that British chicken production is linked to deforestation in Brazil, where large areas of forest are being cut down for soybean cultivation. The soy is used in animal feed sold by a UK supplier to major supermarket and fast food chains in the country.
CDP recently released a report in which it was revealed that less than two out of ten major food brands measure and disclose emissions from their supply chains despite launching green or plant-based products. Only 16% of the businesses CDP approached provided information on Scope 3 emissions, and 75 out of the 504 companies who provided data to CDP have verified science-based targets. The report also showed the sector’s failure in combatting deforestation, with less than half disclosing on forest risks for soy and cattle.