The Future of Food

A Singaporean company created special Siu-mai (Chinese Prawn Dumpling) going for SGD$5,000 for only 8 pieces. As much as I love the prawn-filled dimsum (Cantonese side dish), I would not want to pay SGD$5,000 when other brands of Siu-Mai are available at supermarkets for under SGD$5. So why are these Sui-Mai so expensive? What makes them different? I’ll get to that in a while.

Siu-Mai and other dimsum that I enjoy eating 🙂 Photo credits: Alice Cheung on Pixabay

Hello friends! Welcome back! 😊 Remember my first post mentioning Bill Gates and his personal pick of technologies? If not, you can read it here! In that list, he brought up an interesting technology – lab grown meat.

First, let’s address the environmental crisis that arises from our agricultural practices. While essential for humanity, the agriculture industry creates huge impacts on the environment.

I learnt during ENV1101 lectures that 66% of the potent greenhouse gas Nitrous Oxide (NO₂) emitted as a result of human practices comes from the agricultural sector. Being much more potent than Carbon Dioxide (CO₂), NO₂ contributes greatly to global warming.

I also learnt that agriculture is one of the main reasons for deforestation. Other than causing the Earth to lose forests which are carbon sinks, deforestation also leads to soil erosion, contaminating nearby water bodies. Along with soil degradation, there is now reduced arable land available for agriculture.

Especially considering the growing human population, which is projected to reach 10 billion in the next few decades, I believe that there is an urgent need to consider more sustainable food sources that can cater to the growing population while minimising damage to the environment.

Thus, presenting lab-grown meat.

While it is still in development, lab-grown meat has the potential to become a more environmentally friendly alternative than conventional meat as it is suggested to release fewer greenhouse gasses. A common method to manufacture lab-grown meat is to take animal stem cells and grow them in a nutrient-rich solution. This method is more animal friendly, as no animals need to be slaughtered to obtain the meat.  Although some have reservations that this new technology will be able to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture, many others see potential in it; investment in this industry totalled to almost SGD$100 million by 2018.

Remember the pricey Siu-Mai I mentioned earlier? It was created by Singaporean based company Shiok Eats during their development stage to make lab-grown shrimps. After working on this project for a few years, they have successfully brought down the cost of lab-grown shrimp and are looking to be able to put their product onto the market within the next few years! Check out this short video on Shiok Eats!



Such technologies make me optimistic that in the future, greener food alternatives will be available for consumption. Till then, there are ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint from food, by reducing our meat intake (like me) or going completely vegetarian or vegan – just like my BES coursemate Yanna! Check out her blog on veganism here!


Alicia 😊

5 thoughts on “The Future of Food

  1. Hi Alicia,

    What a coincidence, I was thinking about the future of food production in Singapore and if lab grown meat can help with that. After all, due to land constraint Singapore isn’t well suited for meat production. I guess lab grown meat also reduces nutrient/energy wastage since the bulk of the foodstock that goes into warm blooded (which prawns aren’t but nevermind) livestock goes into thermoregulation and other pesky processes that animals have to contend with.
    I guess for prawns it would be much more sustainable than bottom trawling, which as we’ve learnt is not that great for the habitats on the sea floor.
    I do wonder about the water footprint involved in that nutrient rich solution.

    If all goes well, I hope I will be able to cover this topic in a future blog post two weeks from now, from a local food production viewpoint. (shameless plug but I guess if the post comes out it can be found here : )

    1. Hi Ee Kin! Thank you for reading my blog! I do believe that with a few more years of research & development, lab-grown meat has the potential to be a more sustainable source of food for our growing population. Although I could not find information about the water footprint of the nutrient-rich solution specifically, this study suggests that lab-grown meat requires less water. I look forward to reading thoughts and opinions about lab-grown meat in the Singapore context!

  2. Hi Alicia,

    Deviating a bit from your topic, but still related to replacing environmentally damaging activities with lab production, I think I mentioned to you that the diamonds (black diamonds) in my wedding ring are lab grown.

    The company I ordered from (diamondsbyme) charges less for a lab-grown than for a natural diamond of the same size and quality, which I’m guessing is related to the rarity of mined stones.

    There’s really no visible difference between natural & lab-grown diamonds, but I wonder whether people might be resistant to switch because of some perception that a natural diamond has more status or cachet. And I guess you could ask a similar question about meat or any thing produced synthetically. In other words, if lab-grown meat or prawns tastes the same as farmed meat or prawns, might consumers be unwilling because of the perception that not natural = not good.


    1. Hi Dr Coleman! I found that a survey that suggested that the majority of the respondents are open to lab-grown diamonds, but another survey found that the majority are not open to lab-grown meat. Some reasons they cited are heath concerns about lab-grown meat and that they are “disgusted” by the thought of consuming lab-grown meats. I also asked a few of my friends if they were willing to try lab-grown meat and while they were willing, they also had similar health concerns. From this, I think that people may be more sceptical of and more unwilling to change if the ‘man-made’ product if it is going directly into their bodies, as compared to being worn on the outside. Ultimately, I think that there is still a stigma against synthetic products in our society, but if there is more education on how they can be more beneficial/ transparency on how they are made, people might become more accepting :).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *