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IN THE YEAR 2021: The first lab-grown meat for sale could come from this Singapore startup that’s re-creating shrimp

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Unlike the U.S., Singapore has developed regulations for the sale of cultured meat, and the Asian country has supported the technology with tax breaks and grants.

DAVID PIERSON: In an industrial corner of Singapore, multiplying steadily in bioreactors heated precisely to 82 degrees, real shrimp meat is being grown from samples of the crustacean’s microscopic cells. Fed a nutrient-rich soup meant to mimic its diet in the wild, a single cell can reproduce over a trillion times into a mound of gray translucent flesh. Think of it as meat growing without all the other parts of the animal, including that chalky black vein.

The venture is being led by Sandhya Sriram and a team of scientists, who are attempting to upend one of the cornerstones of dim sum. Sriram’s company, Shiok Meats, is named after Singaporean slang used to declare something delicious… Asia consumes three-quarters of the world’s supply of shrimp. And the industry’s notorious practices, which include slave labor, pollution and the overuse of antibiotics, convinced Sriram there would be a market for an alternative…

Similar work is being done across the world at other startups and research labs to grow beef, pork, chicken and high-end specialty products such as bluefin tuna and foie gras, but Sriram’s company is the only one known to be focused on re-creating shrimp, a staple in many Asian dishes…

Shiok was founded by Sriram and fellow scientist Ka Yi Ling, 32. The pair initially struggled to find private lab space to rent, settling briefly at a marine institute on a mostly secluded island that required careful adherence to a ferry schedule, lest they wanted to stay a night alone on the eerie redoubt.

By 2019, the pair had moved out and developed a prototype that required Sriram, a vegetarian, to eat shrimp for the first time so that she could compare the two. “I could definitely smell and taste the ocean,” she said of the creation.

Driving down costs remains the biggest hurdle. Shiok’s proto-shrimp costs $5,000 a kilogram, which is about $2,268 a pound, mostly due to the price of the nutrient fluids needed to feed the cells. Access to more affordable nutrients has reduced the cost of Shiok’s meat to $3,500 a kilogram, or about $1,588 a pound. The goal is to make Shiok’s shrimp 100 times cheaper by the first half of next year…

Unlike the U.S., Singapore has developed regulations for the sale of cultured meat. The tiny Southeast Asian country, whose entire width is the distance between Burbank and El Segundo, has supported the technology with tax breaks and grants to bolster a government campaign to break the country’s near-total reliance on imported food by 2030. SOURCE…

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