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  • You've seen a chicken nugget before.

  • Crispy on the outside, juicy in the middle.

  • Like every chicken nugget should be.

  • But this is no ordinary chicken nugget.

  • This is a chicken nugget grown from a single cell, with no animals harmed in the process.

  • There's a little bit of irony in the fact that we took such a complex process, right.

  • Moment of truth!

  • Creating cultured chicken, and the first product we created was such a simple chicken bite.

  • And now, in a world-first, it's available on menus in Singapore after authorities approved

  • the sale of the cultured meat at the end of 2020.

  • We have the freedom to sell across Singapore, whether retail, food service, hawker centers, you name it.

  • Eat Just is the Californian food start-up responsible for bringing the world's first

  • lab-grown chicken meat to tables.

  • Its landmark approval for human consumption may potentially disrupt industrial livestock farms.

  • But when CEO Josh Tetrick started out in 2011, that notion was a pipe dream.

  • 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.

  • Josh, 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.

  • 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.

  • Investors liked his vision.

  • Shortly after he founded the company, billionaire tech investor Vinod Khosla was on board, investing

  • $500,000 in the idea.

  • That was at least enough to get me off the couch.

  • I started hiring food scientists and biochemists and molecular biologists, analytical chemists, chefs.

  • Years of experimentation later, the team struck on mung bean, a protein-rich legume commonly

  • used in cuisines across Asia.

  • And in 2018, Eat Just's first product, Just Egg, was born.

  • To date, the company has sold the equivalent of 100 million eggs made from plants

  • from major retailers, including Walmart, Whole Foods and Alibaba.

  • But the egg was just the beginning.

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

  • Real chicken and real beef that didn't require killing an animal, that didn't require using

  • a single drop of antibiotic; and that's broadly a process called cellular agriculture.

  • The process of creating cultured meat starts with a cell.

  • In this case, from a chicken.

  • It can be taken either from a live bird through a biopsy, a fresh piece of meat, a cell bank

  • or the root of a feather.

  • That cell is then fed nutrients, like those found in soy and corn, before being left to

  • mature in a large-scale steel vessel.

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

  • This is manufacturing chicken at scale, without the animal, without the antibiotics,

  • without all the issues.

  • And the end product is not plant-based chicken, it's not some different form, it is literally chicken.

  • Creating the cell-cultured meat product was the easy part.

  • Next came the regulatory approvals, which took two years.

  • Towards 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 nugget is now available at 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.

  • Chef Kaimana, Eat Just's in-house chef, worked with 1880 to create the novel menu.

  • We wanted to create two dishes that really spoke to the iconic producers, the largest

  • producers of chicken in the world, both the United States and China.

  • How does it compare working with this cell-cultured chicken nugget?

  • It is exactly the same.

  • Really?

  • The same cook time, you can handle it like you would a normal chicken bite.

  • No magic there, just really typical chicken.

  • Singapore is home to Eat Just's Asia Pacific headquarters and its first factory in Asia.

  • We're strongly considering making it the global manufacturing headquarters for Good Meat.

  • While the island, which is slightly smaller than New York City, may seem an unlikely

  • location for a global meat production facility, Aileen Supriyadi, senior research analyst

  • at Euromonitor International, says several factors are at play.

  • Singapore has the 30 by 30 initiative, so the country wants to have 30 percent of the

  • food to be produced locally.

  • That's one of the reasons why they let Eat Just to firstly commercialize in Singapore.

  • Singapore can also utilize the scientific knowledge, especially the stem cell research.

  • And Singapore, being the hub in Asia, actually helps those companies export and sell their

  • products to other countries as well.

  • The rise of food start-ups comes amid the scrutiny on industrial farming over its unethical

  • practices and effects on the environment.

  • The livestock industry, which supports the livelihoods of at least 1.3 billion people

  • worldwide, has been racing to keep up with the demand for meat.

  • Every year, an estimated 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food.

  • Meanwhile, the wider agriculture industry is responsible for 10-12% of greenhouse gas emissions

  • a major contributor to climate change.

  • Not everyone is behind the cultured meat craze, though.

  • Some are still skeptical of its nutritional value and suitability for human consumption,

  • while its environmental and social impact remains to be seen. However, Josh claims the process is cleaner

  • and more ethical than traditional agriculture. Then there are those who just find the concept odd.

  • It just seems weird and strange, and you can't quite place what the issue is, right?

  • Meat comes from killing an animal, right, and doing it in any other way just doesn't

  • seem like something we should be messing around with.

  • I say to them that industrialized animal production is probably the strangest and most bizarre

  • thing happening, you're just not aware of it.

  • And if you did look at it, you'd realize it's not the way you actually want to eat.

  • And if there's a way that we can do it better, let's get after it.

  • In fact, demand for alternative meat products, such as cultured or plant-based meat, appears to be growing.

  • A report estimated that the alternative meat market could be worth $140 billion,

  • or 10% of the global meat industry, within a decade.

  • In Asia Pacific, it's actually quite big.

  • In 2020 itself, the market size has reached about $800 million.

  • Companies have started to produce more Asian-based cuisines.

  • 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.

  • Josh said he welcomes the competition.

  • I want companies to come in and be a part of solving the problem.

  • I hope someone hears this interview, watches this interview, and decides I think I can

  • do it better than this dude who didn't have any experience of food technology before he started this.

  • I, of course, have an ego in wanting to be the first that does it.

  • But there's too much that needs to be done for only a handful of companies to try and get at it.

  • However, disrupting the dominance of the established animal agriculture industry won't happen overnight.

  • One challenge that may come from cell-based chicken is actually consumers' perception

  • about the product being cell-based itself.

  • The limiting steps to ultimately making this ubiquitous are regulatory approval,

  • scale and consumer education.

  • We can't just focus on one, we've got to focus on all three.

  • Josh says Eat Just has raised over $400 million from investors, including Khosla Ventures,

  • Founders Fund, Bill Gates' Gate Ventures and Singapore's Temasek.

  • We'll continue to raise more capital.

  • At some point, we'll decide to go public; we want to hit operating profitability first.

  • This won't happen without a lot of capital, there's no getting around it.

  • As Eat Just sets its sights on getting regulatory approval in other countries, Josh is certain

  • the bet will pay off.

  • You have to take leaps of faith every day.

  • We're acting as if the U.S. will eventually approve it.

  • We're acting as if Europe will eventually approve it.

  • That, I think, ability for us to invest in today and realize that there's going to

  • be an opportunity going forward put us in a place where we could take advantage of the

  • regulatory approval from Singapore.

  • And that's how we're going to be operating everywhere.

You've seen a chicken nugget before.

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This multibillion-dollar company is selling lab-grown chicken meat in a world-first | CNBC Make It

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/02
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