What do acclaimed chefs Dominique Crenn, José André and Singapore’s Loo Kia Chee of Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice have in common? Cell-cultured meat excites them. Grown in laboratories, cultured meats are cruelty-free and significantly reduce the environmental toll of farming.
However, the clean meat industry is not without controversy. Many major players rely on foetal bovine serum (FBS), which is harvested from the foetuses of pregnant cows during slaughter, as a growth medium to nourish and turn stem cells into muscle or fat. FBS is also one of the costliest ingredients in the lab-grown process, accounting for approximately 80 to 90 per cent of total production costs, with 1 litre costing up to US$1,000 (S$1,420).
Enter Umami Meats, a Singapore-based cultivated seafood start-up working on solving the serum issue. Founded by CEO Mihir Pershad, it has developed a low-cost, plant-derived growth medium that is less than US$1 per litre. Furthermore, the company has patented its single-cell technology (for mesenchymal stem cell lines from fish), which further drives down costs, and makes its cultivated seafood more competitively priced.
Umami Meats expects to make its commercial launch in 2024. First on its menu: Japanese eel, red snapper, and yellowfin tuna.