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Try Singapore, where the company behind Just Egg is launching cultured chicken.
Josh Tetrick, CEO of Eat Just, isn’t offended when someone says his company’s meat “tastes like chicken.” That’s a huge win. Eat Just’s cultured chicken has been approved for sale in Singapore, a watershed moment in the commercialization of without an actual animal being slaughtered. “What this does is open a door,” says Tetrick.
Plant-based meats have been on a tear in grocery stores and in our minds, but cultured meat is seen as a major step toward closing the gap with people who still aren’t convinced by alternative protein.
Eat Just’s Good Meat cultured chicken bites launch first, followed by cut-style chicken suitable for grilling.
To differentiate its cultured meat products from plant-based products like Just Egg, Eat Just is launching a new brand, Good Meat, as it goes to market in Singapore. “Singapore is one of the most forward-thinking countries on the planet,” says Tetrick. “They have forward-thinking regulators (who) looked at a number of elements related to safety and were the first to really get their act together” in terms of creating a review and approval process for cultured meat.
Cultured chicken was recently launched at The Chicken restaurant in Tel Aviv, but that’s essentially an invite-only test kitchen for cultured meat company SuperMeat. Eat Just’s Good Meat cultured chicken will be produced for retail sale at an independent, though yet to be revealed, restaurant. It will first appear as breaded bites and later as grillable cuts.
“We didn’t work two years to get the approval just to sit on this,” says Tetrick. “After Singapore we’ll move to the US and Western Europe.” But US availability won’t be that simple: A regulatory process for cultured meat doesn’t yet exist between the USDA and FDA, though they have agreed to team on one. “Once they do that, we’ll be ready to launch,” says Tetrick, though initial volumes will be small.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how similar the cultured chicken itself tasted compared to the real deal,” wrote CNET’s Lexy Savvides after tasting an early sample of Good Meat cultured chicken in 2019.
With the complications of COVID-19, I wasn’t able to get to the company’s test kitchen to sample their cultured chicken, but CNET’s Lexy Savvides tasted an early version in 2019 and said, “the crunch from the breading and the smell from the fry was exactly what I expected from a good chicken nugget. But I was pleasantly surprised at how similar the cultured chicken itself tasted compared to the real deal.”
Any discussion of cultured meat quickly comes around to scale, which drives availability and affordability — huge hurdles in a marketplace where conventional animal meat is cheap and plentiful. “We have a lot of work to do on the cost side,” admits Tetrick.
While exact pricing will be announced by the participating restaurant at a later date, Tetrick says, “we’re going to put it on the menu at about price parity with a premium chicken (dish), but we have north of five years to go” to get the price below that of conventional chicken. “But we’re not confused about how we get there. We know exactly the work we need to do.”
Impossible Foods, like many alt protein brands, leans hard on its environmental bona fides.
Alternative protein companies rely on a troika of market positions that typically leans hardest on an environmental pitch, followed by consumer health and then animal welfare. But Eat Just tends to balance those more evenly. “I care deeply about mitigating climate change and about preserving biodiversity,” says Tetrick, who’s done sustainability work at Citigroup and law firm McGuireWoods. “But there’s something deep in our value system about behaving in a kind and caring way, and our food system should represent that.”
After breaded chicken bites, Good Meat plans to bring out cuts of cultured chicken that will look like conventional chicken breast meat.
There are interesting parallels between the cultured meat and electric car sectors: Both are introducing a technology that can inspire initial resistance from consumers and existential alarm from conventional producers, both involve a major shift in infrastructure, and both need some degree of regulatory air cover to succeed. “A new space race for the future of food is underway,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute in a statement reacting to the Good Meat announcement. “As nations race to divorce meat production from industrial animal agriculture, countries that delay their investment in this bright food future risk getting left behind.”
Normalization is half the battle in large scale change and Tetrick says he knows when cultured meat will have achieved that. “Eventually I want tens of thousands of restaurants to have it on their menu and then, at some point, ask their chefs ‘Why do we have conventional chicken on the menu, too?'”
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