Nowadays people across the globe are increasingly becoming more aware of the impact of climate change and the need for more sustainable practices in agriculture and food production. The demand for meat alternatives and substitute meat has given rise to a fast expanding food industry as evidenced by the rise of plant-based meat alternatives such as Impossible Foods, which is responsible for the Impossible Burger. As the present generation of food consumers become more discerning about the environmental impact and livestock welfare of the food that they eat, more foodtech companies and startups are innovating and coming up with new solutions and products to meet their tastes. Shiok Meats, a Singapore-based foodtech startup, is doing its part with its aim of bringing fresh, healthy seafood and meat that is grown from cells in the lab straight to the dining tables of seafood lovers everywhere.
Shiok Meats claims that it is the first cell-based clean meat company in Singapore, as well as being the first such startup in the region of Southeast Asia. Clean meat is a relatively new addition to the food industry and is still at the beginning stages of innovation and development. As the name implies, clean meat is real genuine meat that, instead of being harvested from livestock and animals such as cattle, domesticated fowl, fish, and pigs, is grown from cells outside of the animal, typically in a lab setting. Shiok Meats, whose name Shiok originates from the local Singaporean dialect and means very tasty, is up against quite a number of other foodtech companies and firms that are also experimenting with meat grown from cells including poultry and beef. According to the food technology startup, cell-based clean meat tastes just as delicious as the real thing with the same texture, besides being more nutritious and environment and health-friendly with no harm done to living animals.
In order to develop cell-based seafood crustacean meat such as crab, lobster and shrimp, the foodtech startup initiates the process by starting with a sample of cells from the desired animal. The cells are then grown in a nutrient-rich environment in a controlled laboratory setting to ensure cleanliness and quality. Temperatures are kept at an optimal twenty eight degrees celsius to ensure that the cells can multiply and thrive. The entire growth process, from cell to the desired seafood meat, takes a typical twenty eight to forty two days to accomplish.
One of the key issues facing Shiok Meats right now is the sky-high cost of cell-based seafood meat products. As an example, just one kilogram, or approximately two pounds of cell-based clean shrimp meat that is grown in a laboratory would cost an astronomical five thousand American dollars. According to Dr. Sandhya Sriram, chief executive officer of Shiok Meats, the startup hopes to reduce the cost to just fifty American dollars per kilogram by the end of the year, and as the startup starts to scale up the cost is expected to be reduced even lower.
Currently Shiok Meats, the food technology startup, is still in the research and development phase and expects to achieve commercialization within the next few years. The firm hopes to secure five million American dollars in funding to develop a pilot plant in Singapore, and is seeking regulatory approval from Singapore’s food regulators. Nevertheless, the potential for Shiok Meats to disrupt the way consumers eat seafood is a tantalizing prospect that could spur the development of more cell-based clean meat products in the near future.