Our vision and mission is to produce healthy, cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable seafood and meats using cells instead of animals
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Shiok Meats is a cell-based clean meat company, the first of its kind in Singapore and South-East Asia. Our mission is to bring delicious, clean and healthy seafood and meats by harvesting from cells instead of animals. Shiok Meats will bring cell-based crustacean meats (shrimp, crab, lobster) to your table. Our meats are animal-, health- and environment-friendly with the same taste, texture, more nutrients and no cruelty. “Shiok” in Singapore and Malay slang means fantastic and delicious. We are currently in R&D phase and will commercialise in a few years. Shiok Meats is run by a first-in-class team of scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience.
The vision for our technology is to start by adding on another source of protein or food through cell-based meat and seafood technology; but eventually we want to disrupt the food system by making cell-based meat and seafood the only source of meat and seafood which is sustainable, cruelty-free and healthy.
Meat. Seafood. Dairy. Eggs - these are such an integral part of our daily diets. We, simply, cannot live without these.
But these animals are living and dying in horrible conditions that are totally inhumane and cruel. The 7.3 trillion dollars meat and seafood industry is tainted with factory farms, large scale fisheries, animal exploitation and cruelty, slave laborers and excessive use of antibiotics.
Let’s take the shrimp and seafood industry for example. I am going to share my first hand experience in visiting some of the largest shrimp farms in the world. We have all seen the disgusting videos of slaughterhouses where cows, chickens and pigs are in overcrowded cages, subjected to cruelty and bad practises. Not many of us have seen how shrimps are grown and produced - it is like a scene from a horror movie.
Shrimps are bottom feeders; in the oceans they feed on dead animals, deep seawater plants and so on. So the shrimp industry exploits this aspect and grows shrimps in sewage water - yes, literally sewage water. Shrimps actually thrive in these conditions. Then, since they are grown in sewage water, they come out black and disgusting - so they are cleaned in industrial bleach and dunked in huge vats of antibiotics and then sent off for human consumption. It is absolutely appalling - and I am a vegetarian by choice and have never eaten shrimps and after seeing that I could not understand as to why anyone would eat shrimps!
This is farmed shrimp - now coming to wild-caught shrimp from the oceans - they are loaded with microplastics, heavy metals - and remember the bleach and antibiotics used to clean the farmed sewage shrimps? Those are dumped in the ocean. Huge trawlers and nets are used to catch shrimps and this leads to an alarming 1:20 ratio of bycatch, which is other sea animals and plants being killed unnecessarily.
So this is how disgusting the shrimp industry is and that is not all. A huge news story was put out a couple of years ago on the shrimp industry - how they are disease-carrying and antibiotic-loaded. Some shrimp farmers even injected individual shrimps with steroids and hormones to make them bigger because bigger the shrimp, better the price. We are not allowing these animals enough time to breed to become the natural size that they should be and hence need to inject them with steroids! Also slave laborers in horrible work conditions are involved in peeling shrimps with their bare hands for the Western world.
Sewage water, antibiotics, heavy metals, bleach and microplastics are 5 words that should never be associated with food but those are exactly what we are putting into our mouths.
The rest of the shellfish industry is just as bad - crabs and lobsters, the high value, mid volume products are hard to be farmed and hence need to be caught in the oceans.
The world population is going to increase to 10 billion in the next 25 years - and we need to feed all our fellow human beings.
The solution that is offered by this technology called cellular agriculture for meats and cellular aquaculture for seafood is revolutionary and offers actual meat and seafood without compromising on taste, flavor, texture or nutrition. What it does compromise on is animal cruelty, environmental deterioration and human diseases - which is actually a good thing!
Clean meats are meats produced from stem cells and cells of the animal, extracted only once, to produce thousands of tonnes of meat in a controlled environment resulting in meats that are tasty, nutritious and cruelty-free. These meats are also sustainable as they use less land, less water and less energy. Since they are produced from stem cells, their biological and chemical composition is exactly as that of meat. So what we are offering is meat for meat eaters, just from a different source and meat for vegans and vegetarians who do not eat meat due to ethical reasons. So essentially, it is true meat, not fake, not synthetic, and for ALL!
From now on I will be speaking about clean meats only - I want to explain how this marvelous technology works. An easy narrative has been put together by the industry to compare clean meats and seafood to plants and how they are grown in greenhouses, which people are familiar with.
In the greenhouse, a small cutting of a plant is taken and placed in a nutrient-rich environment with controlled temperature, pressure, pollination and so on to grow the plants, vegetables and fruits. At the end of the day, what you get is still plants, vegetables and fruits with the same taste, nutrition and biological and chemical composition. Similarly, for clean meats and seafood, a small sample of stem cells are taken from the live animal - stem cells have this amazing capability to keep growing if put in the right conditions. Stem cells once frozen down, do not die - they actually just stay there doing nothing - but once you put them back in favorable conditions, they start growing and reproducing again! So once these stem cells are isolated from an animal, they are grown in large quantities - I am talking about millions, billions, trillions of cells in a controlled and sterile environment - in a large chamber called the bioreactor. If you have seen breweries, you would have seen these huge stainless steel tanks in which beer is brewed. Just imagine these huge tanks brewing meat and seafood inside instead of beer!
These tanks hold controlled temperature, pressure, gas exchange and also a nutrient-rich liquid to help grow the cells - very similar to what it is inside of the animal. At the end of the process of a couple of weeks, what you have is meat! The same meat that would have come from a slaughtered animal but with no animal slaughter in this case!
Clean meats are like IVF babies - human beings born using IVF are still human beings! Similarly, clean meat produced in bioreactors is still meat! But it is cruelty-free, ethical, environment-friendly and healthy!
Hence, I decided to start a cell-based seafood company working on shrimps, crabs and lobsters. Shrimps and other crustaceans are extremely nutritious, high in protein content, consumed in large quantities throughout the world and especially in Asia.
My personal experience and education is in stem cells and I wanted to produce clean, healthy and environment-friendly seafood using stem cells. I have been working with various types of stem cells from different animals right from my undergraduation, through my Masters, PhD and postdoctoral research work. In 2018, I decided to take a stance, quit my job and take the biggest risk of my career and life - but it paid off! And my co-founder, Ka Yi, came along this crazy ride with me.
We started up with an idea, a lot of passion and a little but of money. In 6 months, we had our first prototype - these are the first ever cell-based shrimp dumplings made by us! They were extremely delicious, succulent, sweet and have that umami flavor that we all love; but with no animal cruelty or antibiotics!
Our vision is to produce delicious and healthy shrimp, crab and lobster meats from cells instead of animals with the same taste, nutrition and texture without animal cruelty, completely sustainable and environment-friendly.
So talking about the future of meat, take a wild guess as to how much meat and seafood one person consumes per year in India. I will tell you the number - it is approximately 11kg per person per year; this might sound very less but we have 1.3 billion people - so you can do the math. On the other hand, China with a population of almost 1.4 billion consumes about 75 kg per person per year and in Hong Kong, it is 144 kg per person!. And the latest numbers show that India is the fastest growing meat and seafood consumer in the world!
In the near future, we will be eating meats that are healthy, sustainable, cruelty-free and that are friendly to this environment and earth. Cell-based meats will be majority of what you would eat and buy. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, lesser land set aside for cattle breeding, and lesser use fo antibiotics - all things good for the environment is the future. Walking into a supermarket or restaurant, you will be able to easily buy meat or seafood and you know that it is cell-based and clean. In the next 10 to 15 years, cell-based meat and seafood will just be called meat and seafood; no need for the prefix as it will be so common.
Hence, I would like to end by saying that each and every one of you should take an extra 60 seconds to think before you put food into your mouth, to think about where the food comes from, how was it made, who made it and make a conscious choice.