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Lab-created chicken set to go on sale for the first time

One Singaporean restaurant is set to serve lab-grown chicken as opposed to factory-slaughtered chicken before the end of the year.

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Eat Just's chicken breast served with pasta.

Eat Just
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Singapore's restaurant-goers will soon get the chance to enjoy chicken nuggets made without the slaughter of a single fowl.

The island nation's food regulators have granted approval for San Francisco-based Eat Just to sell its lab-created chicken, making Singapore the world's first country to approve the sale of so-called cultured meat.

The products are expected to take the form of chicken breast and chicken nuggets under the company's new Good Meat brand, when it debuts publicly at a Singapore restaurant before the end of the year.

"Cultured meat is taking real meat -- chicken, beef or lamb -- and producing real meat, without the slaughter of an animal, " Josh Tetrick, CEO of Eat Just, said in an interview with CNET.

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Unlike traditional meat products that involve killing an animal in a processing plant, cultured meat products are grown from animal cells that are fed nutrients and ultimately scaled up in bioreactors. 

Singapore's approval of Eat Just's lab-created chicken aligns with its broader food-security agenda -- the tiny country is aiming to produce 30% of its own food by 2030. 

"With a single cell, you can create an unlimited amount of meat without antibiotics, without deforesting a single acre of land," Tetrick said.

Read more: Plant-based pig out: This startup's making pork that's better for the planet

One of the main goals of many alternative meat advocates like Tetrick is to cut down on livestock farming, which is linked to a range of environmental issues, including water depletion, deforestation and the production of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, experts say. 

That partly explains why Singapore isn't alone in its push to introduce alternative meats at scale. 

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Beyond Meat partnered up with chicken chain KFC for a 2019 test run of Beyond Fried Chicken. The plant-based chicken appeared with the modified motto "it's still finger lickin' good." 

Beyond Meat

International fast food chains have increasingly added meat substitutes to their menus amid growing awareness of the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture and animal welfare concerns. In November, McDonald's announced plans to introduce a meat-free burger as part of its McPlant menu options expected to debut next year. KFC has debuted a plant-based chicken offering, developed in partnership with Beyond Meats, for its menus internationally.

Over two years ago, Eat Just began the work of submitting its chicken cell line to Singaporean regulators, who then reviewed the composition, process and safety elements, according to the company.

"Now that Singapore has secured the world's first, what we're interested in is 'who's next?' and 'how fast?' said Elaine Siu, managing director of The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, an international nonprofit organization that promotes cultivated meat and plant-based substitutes for animal products. "This is a modern-day space race among countries to ensure food security and safety."

But don't expect the company's cultivated meat products to hit shelves in the US anytime soon.

The "biggest limiting step to launching in the USA is the FDA and USDA creating a regulatory framework similar to Singapore," Tetrick said. 

Eat Just hasn't yet shared details on pricing, but the company's website now says the nuggets will at "price parity for premium chicken you'd enjoy at a restaurant." The broader cultured meat industry, however, has been hindered by an inability to bring down prices from sky-high levels partly due to the capital intensive nature of the production process.