Toad-ily Cool

When in Singapore, Hop on a Tour of Jurong Frog Farm

Outside the bustling city lies an intriguingly sustainable frog farm.

By Meredith Nudo February 6, 2020

A frog keeps its head above water.

SINGAPORE IS A CITY KNOWN FOR ITS DRAMATIC URBAN ARCHITECTURE, where biodiverse initiatives, such as the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome, rise like steel and glass hills beneath the glamorous skyline. But like most heavily industrialized nations, the culture’s emphasis on efficiency and convenience—thanks to many technological advances—has often overshadowed the logistics behind day-to-day life on this bustling island, including how food travels from farming facilities to kitchens.

Then there’s the Jurong Frog Farm.

Founded in the 1970s by Wan Bock Thiaw, the farm began life along Old Jurong Road near the center of the island, with 80 tanks devoted to breeding American bullfrogs. By the 1990s, an increased demand for frog meat—Singaporeans reportedly eat a whopping 15 million per year—lead to its relocation to the Kranji Countryside, an agricultural area on the northwest side of the island. 

Today, the farm is a community cornerstone that connects Singaporeans to the local agriculture that makes their meals happen.

It's now run by second-generation frog farmer, Chelsea Wan, who's expanded the family business to some 20,000 bullfrogs as well as a thriving population of catfish, tilapia, and snakehead. She's also sought ISO certification for food safety management systems and helped start the Singapore Young Farmers Alliance. 

While it takes a little bit of careful logistical planning to explore Jurong Frog Farm and its neighbors in the Kranji Countryside, the effort proves well worth it.  Here’s what to know before you go.

Touring The Facility

The average day on the farm begins around 7 a.m., when Wan and her team dispatch orders of frog meat, including frog legs for human consumption, minced meat for pet food, and collagen for drinks and skincare products.

By 9 a.m., the crew's prepared for the day's tours. During the week, Jurong Frog Farm hosts field trips for schools and educational centers across Singapore, with programs tailored specifically to different age brackets. These include lessons on the life cycle of frogs—with living examples from every stage—as well as walks around the frog and fish pens, photo opportunities, games, feedings, and other activities. In addition, the staff also attends farmers markets, runs social media, and, of course, tends to the frogs and fish.

"This is a job in which the pay is not great, and it requires you to work very hard and long hours, but gives you insurmountable satisfaction," Wan says. "I have deep respect for all the farmers growing food for the rest of the world."

Jurong Frog Farm opens itself to drop-in visits on weekends, with similar scheduled-tours tailored to the demographics in attendance. Singapore’s sultry tropical climate invites a leisurely experience. The frogs sun themselves in groups or take brief swims around their pens as the filters burble and hum. The fish bob as a school to the surface when they sense guests arriving, pushing their lips above the water-line to beg for more food. All of this transpires under the watchful eye of Gabbe, the cheerful cartoon frog mascot who appears on a few murals throughout the facilities. 


Dining on Bullfrog

Weekend guests are also invited to dine on frog legs (plain or Cajun style), crocodile nuggets, and frog-skin chicharrón, with sweet pandan- and longan-flavored hashima dessert drinks (and water and soda) to wash it down. The cooks fry everything fresh to order on a patio near the shop and main entrance, filling the air with a comfortingly heavy waft of grease and flour. A pop music station chirps from a small radio mounted over the door (Singaporeans love One Direction) as a dog trots from table to table, with goo-goo eyes turned to the highest setting to maximize the chance of a handout. 

Right out of the fryer, with only a minute or so of cool-down time, the frog legs are tender and satisfying, especially when accompanied by a drizzle of hot sauce. Chicharrónes fashioned from the skin make for a tasty, crispy snack, perfect with a dash of thick salt crystals. For dessert, bits of boiled longan and rock sugar bob about gelatinous pillows of fatty premium hashima—a soft, glutinous tissue found in and around amphibian oviducts—in the farm's must-try signature drink.

Such a meal illustrates Jurong Frog Farm’s devotion to honoring their past, their home, their animals, and their planet through sustainable agricultural practices. 

“My views are that an average Singaporean may be quite detached and disconnected with the food system," Wan told us during our visit. "As it is, Singapore imports over 90 percent of our food supplies."

Frog meat tends to hold a similar mild flavor profile and texture to a flaky white fish, making the farmed variety a versatile protein with less ecological impact than beef and pork production. The collagen found in the skin and hashima is appreciated as a product for skin and beauty products, either via consumption or use directly on the skin. Anything left over, including the bones, gets processed into pet food. Jurong Frog Farm processes around 150 tons of amphibian annually—and they also refrigerate the frogs before slaughter, so they go into a deep state of sleep.

Jurong's Focus on Sustainability

Wan and her family’s efforts stand for creating positive global changes on a local level. They represent a shift forward in translating philosophy into practice—a transition necessary for rebuilding and regrowing a struggling planet.

What does that mean? That frogs are far cleaner livestock than pigs, chicken, and cows, with little to no greenhouse gas emissions. Jurong does not use drugs on its livestock. Fresh water and a high-protein fish meat diet comprise the rearing process, and the farm reduces as much biowaste from the offcut of the frogs as possible. “The waste water goes through a holding pen with natural water filtration system before it goes out into our drains.” 

These holding pens contain plants and sedimentation to further aid in filtration. 

Outside the farm, Wan and her team sell their meat and fish directly to consumers via farmers markets and delivery. More adventurous families may also purchase tadpoles for themselves to raise their own frogs at home, either as pets or as food. But because American bullfrogs pose a significant threat to Singapore’s ecology, and the release of an invasive species into the wild there can come with $50,000 fine in Singapore dollars, Jurong Frog Farm requires those interested to go through a comprehensive education process. 

Getting There:

The Kranji Countryside Express, which leaves from the Kranji MRT seven times a day, is the most effective means of traveling to the area aside from driving. Jurong Frog Farm makes for the last stop of the circuit—there are plenty more tourable farms, a farmers market, edible and ornamental fisheries, nurseries, crafts, nature walks, and related activities in the area—but is the first in line for the ride back. Tickets cost $1 for children and $3 for adults, and covers the entire route as well as multiple stops during a round trip.

The rideshare app Grab can drop guests off, but are hardly ever available in the area to pick them up at a moment’s notice.

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