Aside from producing meat, Jurong Frog Farm, the island’s only heritage frog farm, has piloted a sustainability program and a skincare line.
Opening in the 1970s, Jurong Frog Farm’s initial purpose was to commercially breed American bullfrogs. The company has since expanded way beyond their original 80 fibre tanks, now occupying a 12000 square metre plot at Lim Chu Kang, home to 20,000 bullfrogs and tiger frogs. Reared for consumption, the frogs are kept to a purely fish-based diet, and the farm takes a strong opposing stance toward the use of hormones and antibiotics because of its environmental detriments and the growing health-consciousness among Singaporean consumers.
Through the processing of such a large number of frogs on a daily basis, Wan Bock Thiaw, the first-generation owner and founder, became increasingly concerned about the biowaste generated, as for every kilogram of frog meat produced, an equal ratio of offcuts comprising the skin, innards, skeleton and head were gone to waste.
His first solution was to utilise the frogs’ oviducts for new products. Despite how squeamish that sounds, it is actually used to make hashima, a Chinese and Central Asian jelly-like ingredient chosen for its healing properties in relation to respiratory symptoms, stomach ulcers and to improve complexion. Interchangeable with bird’s nest, hashima is made from the fatty tissue near the fallopian tubes in frogs, hence it was a viable solution for Jurong Frog Farm. Wan began research and development for the dried hashima in 1997, and after searching for the best ways to obtain, clean and dry oviducts, the farm launched their Specially Selected Dried Snow Jelly two years later. Since then, they have also created Premium Hashima Snowdrop, a sweetened bottled drink that contains large chunks of hashima with a freshly brewed option of pandan leaves or dried longan.
The idea to turn frog skin into cosmetic grade collagen came to Chelsea Wan when she found out that a scientist was scavenging the farm’s bins to look for discarded frog skin. The scientist turned out to be Dr. Chia Wei Sheng from Collagreen, a local biotechnology company, as he believed that the collagen in frog skin would be a key ingredient to the formula for skincare products.
Historically, frog skin was an organic remedy for burn wounds due to its absorbency and hardiness. Chia upcycles the discarded frog skin by extracting its collagen, then purifies it for the soaps and hydrating creams in Collagreen and Jurong Frog Farm’scollaborative skincare line, FRUGÉ. Collagreenhas also incorporated the bioactive collagen from the frog skin in their mosquito repelling lotion. Retaining the collagen’s native chemical structure and bioactivities, the substance forms a long-lasting protection layer when applied on the skin, while its hydrophilic nature upkeeps the skin’s natural moisture.
As for the other parts of the frog that have meat on it, but are not parts that are commonly used in cooking, Jurong Frog Farm has piloted a specialised dog food made with formulated minced frog meat. Combined with the expertise of vets, the meat was introduced to dogs with chronic skin issues to good results, and the farm hopes to expand this market further.
Besides repurposing the waste generated from offcuts, Jurong Frog Farm has also found a way to recycle the water that is used to house the frogs through a natural water filtration system made up of plants and sedimentation.
Currently, the farm’s sustainability efforts have allowed them to save 75% of their biowaste, and moving forward, they hope to convert the remaining offcuts and waste water into biofuel and compost to be used on the farm, and to do additional research into the potential of incorporating frog skin lipids into their skin care products.
Even though frog may not be the most popular protein of choice, Jurong Frog Farm is firm that there are bountiful opportunities to raise awareness about the work they do to grow their customer base. Aside from educational tours, the farm also has a restaurant that you can visit to try delicacies made with frog, of course, such as deep-fried frog legs and frog skin chicharron.