Lab-Grown Meat Is on Shelves Now. But There’s a Catch

It’s also completely plausible that the chicken will fly off the shelves. Even though it only contains 3 percent animal cells, it’s likely that production will be extremely limited. Eat Just, which owns Good Meat, has been in serious financial difficulties for some time, and it is under serious pressure to cut costs and show itself to be a profitable business. At very small scales, even small amounts of shopper curiosity can look like a huge success, even if in reality it tells us very little about the demand for cultivated meat with a very small proportion of animal cells.

There’s also the question of the price. Good Meat’s chicken will sell at S$7.20 ($5.35) for a 120-gram portion of frozen chicken—a hefty premium over similar cuts sold in Singapore supermarkets. We already know that high prices are one of the major things that put people off buying plant-based meat, so if shoppers are lukewarm about Good Meat’s chicken, some might argue that it’s a problem with the price, not the product.

In a strange way, none of this really matters. There’s a good chance that Singaporean shoppers aren’t the real audience for Good Meat’s chicken. They’re actually the players, hopefully putting on a show for the people who really matter right now: investors.

After an initial wave of enthusiasm, cultivated meat startups have had a hard time raising money as of late. The industry raised $226 million in 2023—down from $922 million in 2022, and a larger dip than the broader industry-wide downturn in venture funding. Eat Just in particular is embroiled in an expensive legal case with a former supplier and under pressure to bring in new money to keep things going.

Enthusiasm for the industry has also been dampened by laws in Florida and Alabama banning the sale of cultivated meat. Launching in a retail store gives Good Meat a positive story to sell to investors, who will hopefully stump up the injection of cash that the industry needs to keep grinding forward.

As with the high-end restaurant launches in the US that quickly petered out, we shouldn’t expect each milestone to lead neatly on to the next—one retail store, then ten, then 20. The industry is still at an extremely early stage, and these experiments are as much about catching the attention of investors as they are about stoking consumer expectations.

It might be the case that mostly plant-based chicken fillets don’t capture the enthusiasm of investors and consumers. Other startups in the space are trying to side-step the cost problem by aping high-end products like sushi-grade salmon or steak. Others still are leaning into the weirdness of it all. Australian startup Vow is selling cultured quail parfait at a restaurant in Singapore. Which of these approaches succeed, or whether any of them will, is still too early to tell.

All of this isn’t to be downbeat on cultured meat. It’s just that it’s too soon to know whether the industry is on track to solve major difficulties around bringing down the cost of its brewed animal cells, and whether cultivated meat can wow consumers in a way plant-based meat hasn’t managed to. For answers to those questions, we’ll have to wait a long while.

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