Is Lab Grown Meat Kosher? Your Rabbi Wants Steak
As an atheist Jew, I typically only bring up my cultural heritage in two contexts: reminding everyone that the Holocaust happened, so you have to be nice to us, or to mock the (sometimes true) stereotypes about the religion I grew up with. But I also minored in theology, and I love esoteric discussions about the often silly rules that religions have, and how they play into the modern world.
Enter the question of lab grown meat. From the io9 article:
In-vitro or cultured meat shows great potential for feeding our ever growing population. With a bit of work, it would take less area to manufacturer, have a smaller carbon footprint, and be less prone to disease and bacteria compared to traditionally grown farm animals. While we’re not quite at the stage yet where we can pump out steaks in a factory environment, there’s a fairly good chance it will become a part of our diet in the foreseeable future.
But what about people who follow dietary restrictions, like Jews who keep kosher? According to the rules, if a mammal is to be considered kosher, it must have cloven hooves and chew cud. This is why beef is okay, and hare and pork aren’t —- no hooves and rumination, respectively. Kosher meat also has to be slaughtered in a very specific way, involving slitting the animal’s throat with a sharp, non-serrated knife, and removing as much blood as possible.
So, what happens when there’s no animal to slaughter? Vat meat can’t have hooves, and it certainly doesn’t ruminate. Does that mean that no cultured meat is kosher? Or that all of it is? Or does it stick to its parent species?
Of course it will come down to the fact (as in any religious argument) that different people are going to have different opinions depending on their level of adherence to kosher laws. I suspect that the uber-orthadox Hasidic Jews will taste the sweet product of lab grown bacon. In orthodox Judaism, the practice is to “build a fence around the Torah,” meaning that if you even suspect that something might violate any law or covenant of God, you just don’t do it. Reform Jews may or may not argue for the designation of kosher for lab grown meat depending on their personal interpretation of kosher law. But hey, if I can loophole my way into a delicious bacon breakfast, count me in.