June 28, 2022


Lab-grown meat producer Eat Just unable to benefit from Malaysia's chicken export ban


US start-up Eat Just, a lab-grown meat producer authorised to sell its products in Singapore, was unable to benefit from Malaysia's imposed chicken export ban, as it does not have sufficient capacity to scale up production, the Financial Times reported.


Josh Tetrick, chief executive of Eat Just, said increasing output capacity will take years as the industry continues to develop to reach commercial scale.


After investments reaching hundreds of millions of dollars, start-ups like Eat Just have yet to achieve commercial-scale production. Other cultivated meat start-ups are vying for regulatory approval and production scale-up, including Upside Foods in the US and Future Meat in Israel.


Alex Frederick, senior emerging technology analyst at corporate data firm PitchBook, said cultivated protein start-ups face headwinds, including murky regulatory processes in many countries, technology challenges limiting commercial-scale production, and high manufacturing costs.


The economic viability of meat from plants has been questioned by some scientists and biologists. Pat Brown, founder of Impossible Foods, said that plant-based meat had "zero chance" of competing with animal meat because it was "way too expensive to be competitive in the food market."


Tetrick gave a broad timeframe of "in the next three to 10 years" and predicted that it would take years for it to become profitable.


He said there must be significant upfront investments made in manufacturing, research, and development as it is a longer-term, high-risk project.


Tetrick added that the company was in talks with additional sovereign wealth funds after receiving backing from Singapore's Temasek and the Qatar Investment Authority and that he was "not too worried" about venture capital funding drying up.


The US Food and Drug Administration is currently evaluating the chicken product of the company. Before the end of the year, Singapore regulators will receive an application for approval of the cultivated ground beef product that the company is currently developing.


In addition to breaking ground on a new facility in Singapore this month, Eat Just partnered with US agricultural trader and processor Archer Daniels Midland in May.


From 2023, the facility will produce "tens of thousands of pounds" of chicken annually, according to Tetrick. This year, the company anticipates selling fewer than 1,000 pounds of lab-grown chicken, but by 2028, it hopes to have increased annual production to 30 million pounds.


-      Financial Times

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