Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can "artificial meat" be Kosher?

Found the following article in The Guardian:
Artificial meat grown in vats may be needed if the 9 billion people expected to be alive in 2050 are to be adequately fed without destroying the earth, some of the world's leading scientists report today.

But a major academic assessment of future global food supplies, led by John Beddington, the UK government chief scientist, suggests that even with new technologies such as genetic modification and nanotechnology, hundreds of millions of people may still go hungry owing to a combination of climate change, water shortages and increasing food consumption.

Instead, says Dr Philip Thornton, a scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, two "wild cards" could transform global meat and milk production. "One is artificial meat, which is made in a giant vat, and the other is nanotechnology, which is expected to become more important as a vehicle for delivering medication to livestock."
Is artificial meat simply meat that is grown, based on existing meat? Would the original piece of meat need to be have come from a Kosher animal that was slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law, and then all meat "grown" from it, would be considered Kosher?

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JoeSettler said...

Jameel, we've discussed this in the past (I may even have a link somewhere to it).

There are some more serious issues.

Say the original cell was taken from a living animal. Is that "Ever min ha'chai"? (Prohibition against keeping an animal alive while you cut it up and eat the pieces you cut off).

It would appear so. You can throw the 7 Mitvoth B'nei Noach right out the window.

JoeSettler said...

Here's where we discussed it a few years ago.

Lurker said...

My comments from the previous post:

It's not at all clear that ever min ha'hai would apply to meat grown from some cells extracted from a living animal. If the original cell sample was miniscule, the resulting tissue grown contains close to nothing from the original, and the original might be considered batel b'shishim. And if the original cell sample was microscopic, then there was never even any issur on it to begin with.

Here's a more interesting question: In Star Trek, most of their food comes from replicators. This is a variation on transporter technology: A food sample is scanned, down to its molecular level. Later, a copy of it is reassembled by the replicator, using raw matter as input, which is then rearranged at a subatomic level to produce an atom-for-atom duplicate of the original sample.

Would food produced this way be kosher? If yes, that would mean that one could eat pork that is effectively identical to the real thing.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I think the ever min he-hai query is the wrong one. Typically, we say that all questions of an object as assur or mutar must deal with a discernable object. We don't usually deal with prohibitions at a microscopic level. If we did, you couldn't drink water teeming with microorganisms. If we did, you couldn't read a sefer Torah with microscopic (or larger!) interruptions in the integrity of the letters. If something is grown in a lab from a microscopic sampling of cells, I'd say many poskim with point out the near impossibility of forbidding it as ever min he-hai. What can't be seen isn't 'ever'. Not the case, necessarily, for a sample seen by the naked eye. That becomes a different ball of wax.

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