Hi everyone, welcome back! So far, we’ve been looking at the 30by30 goal and how it would affect food production in Singapore in the immediate future. But what about beyond 2030? Will it be a high tech (u/dys)topia, and what role would more conventional farms play?
As Alicia mentioned in her post, cell-cultured meat products such as Shiok Meats are gaining attention. In a recent press release, they claim that cultured meat may reduce “greenhouse gas emissions by 96%, energy consumption by 45%, land use by 99%, and water consumption by 96%”. This is supported by various journal articles. Reading through them, I realised that not all cultured meat will save energy as livestock like poultry are conventionally less energy-intensive. For Shiok Meats, I am not sure if the savings will be as high compared to other local high tech farms in operation. Local shrimp farm Universal Aquaculture employs closed system vertical farming which reduces water consumption – unlike Shiok Meats which is still in the R&D phase, they plan to produce 400 tonnes by 2022.
So how do companies like Shiok Meat plan to capture the market share? In an interview with Channel News Asia, the co-founder shared that they plan on equipping existing farmers with the technology once it is commercially viable. This makes a lot of sense as these farmers are already well integrated into the supply chain. While cultured meat has not been able to replicate the full animal yet, they might be able to meet the demand for processed food similar to HaiDiLao’s popular smashed shrimp paste.
But would the public accept cultured meat? Only a quarter of my survey respondents were open to giving it a try.
I think some hesitation stems from it being unnatural and seen as “lab-grown” – in fact, the way I phrased the option may have led some to view it negatively. On a commercial level, cultured meats will be produced in facilities more similar to food processing plants than labs. More people may be concerned about the safety and ethical implications of the award-winning TurtleTree Labs, which produces breast milk. It can be harder to trace the origins of cultured animal products, and some people may be put off by the idea of producing human products the same way as other common livestock.
Does this mean that the future of local food production will solely be in cultured meat with no conventional farms? I don’t think so. Cultured meats require culture mediums – and it would be great if the nutrients could be derived from local vegetables and produce. As mentioned earlier, poultry farming tends to be less resource-intensive and it may not make economical sense to culture chicken meat. Another aspect would be more “niche” meats – such as frog meat which I tried with Anna recently (read her blog here). After interacting with patrons, I realised that while there is always a demand for frog meat, it might not be enough to justify the R&D into making cultured frog meat. Just with organic or non-GMO produce, there will always be a market for “conventionally” farmed meat too.
That’s all from me, join me next week as I bring this to a close and look beyond our shores.