We @ Shiok Meats have put together FAQ on cell-based seafood and meats. These are a collection of questions that have been asked repeatedly at various conferences, shows, panel discussions, seminars and events – so we thought we can answer them for you. Have a read and let us know if you have more questions!
- What is cell-based meat?
Cell-based meat, also known as cultivated meat, cultured meat and many others, is real animal meat made from taking cells and stem cells from an animal and growing it outside of the animal. These are not artificial, fake or synthetic meats as they are the same as real meat but are health-, animal- and environment-friendly. See more on the infographic on our homepage.
There is going to be a tremendous need for protein given that the population is going to grow to 10 billion in the next few decades. Hence there is a need for an additional food supply as well as sustainable source of protein. Cell-based meat technology enables us to produce real meat and seafood using stem cells without having the need to grow more animals.
- Is cell-based meat the same as plant-based meat, such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat?
No, they are very different. Both are great alternatives to the conventional meat that we are consuming because they provide the rich protein that we require in our diet. However, plant-based meat is made from plant products such as pea protein and soy protein while cell-based meat is made from cells derived from the animal itself. But fret not because we would only need to take cells from the animals during the initial research and development phase of our production process!
- When will our cell-based crustaceans be available in the market?
We are still working diligently on producing our cell-based crustaceans to be of the finest taste and quality, but as a heads up, you’ll likely see them in some of your familiar markets in 2022!
- What are some of the biggest challenges in getting cell-based crustaceans to the mass market?
Over the last few years, we have been working to improve our production system and bring down the cost of our cell-based crustaceans. Our dedication to ensuring healthy and clean meat inevitably results in a higher cost of our cell-based crustaceans due to the purchase of quality feed for our cells and the necessary equipment to grow the meats. However, we are committed to making our cell-based crustaceans accessible and affordable to as many people as possible. Hence, we are in the midst of building our pilot manufacturing plant to bring delicious cell-based crustaceans to you!
- What would be the price range of our cell-based crustaceans? Would they be more expensive than regular crustaceans on average?
Currently, due to our limited production scale and emphasis for clean and healthy meat, the price of our cell-based crustaceans will inevitably be more expensive as compared to regular crustaceans. However, as we scale up our production process, we will be able to bring down the costs of our cell-based crustaceans so that you may enjoy them!
- Can our cell-based crustaceans be produced in a quantity that is sufficient to feed the mass population?
With our first manufacturing plant, we will be able to feed a certain percentage of the population in Singapore who are interested in exploring our cell-based crustaceans as part of their diet. In the future, we will be expanding our manufacturing plants in other countries so that the locals in these countries can have access to our cell-based crustaceans without incurring the environmental costs from transporting our cell-based crustaceans to these countries.
- Do we have any plans for cultured red meat and poultry?
Currently, we do not have plans for cultured red meat and poultry. Instead, our company will be focusing on developing cell-based crustaceans to the masses.
- Why would you choose to eat cell-based crustaceans instead of conventional crustaceans?
Our cell-based crustaceans are animal-, health-, and environment-friendly! Many crustaceans caught in the wild, along with the by-catch, are thrown back into the oceans and often die. For every kilogram of shrimp caught, 20 kilograms of innocent by-catch is caught in the process. In comparison, we do not keep any live animals to make our cell-based crustaceans, and we are committed to grow our cells without any animal-derived products such as FBS.
In recent years, infectious diseases spread from animals such as COVID-19 are rising, showing the health risks of the animal industry. Not only so, 8 million tons of plastics are thrown into our oceans every year, and there have been studies showing the presence of microplastics in the seafood that ends up on our plates. Aside from plastics, the presence of parasitic worms in raw seafood have been found to increase 283-fold in the past 40 years. Since our cell-based crustaceans are grown in clean and sterile environment, they will not have the above problems.
Looking only at the crustacean fishery and wild caught industry, they emit 187.9kg of carbon dioxide per kilogram of crustacean produced. The crustacean aquaculture alone was found to emit more carbon emissions than the cultivation of pork or poultry! On top of that, the conversion of mangroves to shrimp farms has resulted in the loss of approximately 1.5 million hectares of mangroves since 1980, which are one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. In comparison, the manufacturing of our cell-based crustaceans will not damage the mangroves and also produces less carbon emissions.
- How is cell-based crustacean produced?
Just like how plants, fruits and vegetables can be grown from a piece of stem or root when placed into moist, nutrient-rich soil, cells can also be obtained from a small sample of shrimps or other crustaceans and grown in a nutrient-rich broth.
As plants grow bigger, they would be shifted into larger pots with more soil. Similarly, shrimp cells can be progressively moved to larger and larger vessels, known as bioreactors. These vessels are also commonly used for fermentation of soy sauce, beers etc. So imagine a food production plant with large stainless steel vessels, similar to a brewery – but instead of brewing beer, we brew crustacean meat!
Once the plant is of a suitable size, it will be ready for harvest and consumption. Similarly, when the cells have grown to a large enough mass, they are ready to be harvested and used in a variety of delicious dishes.
- Where are the cells from? If they are from live animals, are these animals kept in tanks for experimental purposes?
The cells are taken from live crustaceans during the first phase of our research and development. This is the only stage of production where animal components are required. These cells can then continue to divide and grow.
We do not keep any of the animals in tanks, and we are working tirelessly to minimize the number of live animals required to develop cell-based crustaceans.
It is similar to using a starter culture for yoghurt or buttermilk-making. A certain percentage of the cells during growth will be taken to make the next batch – so this means, we do not have to keep going back to the animal repeatedly.
- What do we feed our cells?
We feed our cells with a nutrient medium similar to the nutritional profile crustaceans requires to grow in the ocean. This nutrient media includes a mixture of amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins and trace elements. Our cells are grown without any animal-derived products (FBS), and we stay committed to using sustainable plant-based components for our process.
- Are our meats genetically modified?
No, we do not modify any genes of the cells we grow.
- How does the taste of our cell-based crustaceans compare with that of conventional crustaceans?
We have been working on cell-based shrimp for the past few years (we will soon taste cell-based crab and lobster too!). Our Shiok shrimp tastes like conventional shrimp! Since the cells are isolated from shrimps, they taste exactly the same as traditionally farmed or fished shrimp – full of umami flavour and sweetness!
- Do cell-based crustaceans have the same nutrition/protein and fat/cholesterol content of conventional crustaceans?
We are still working on nutritional analysis but theoretically it should be the same as conventional shrimps. We do not grow the fat/cholesterol parts of the shrimps and only grow the protein/muscle parts which makes up most of the shrimp meat.