Cultivated meat, also known as cultured meat or lab-grown meat, is produced by growing meat products directly from their building blocks, the cells, rather than the entire animal. Although often categorized as an “alternative protein”, cultivated meat is instead an alternative current production process for meat. Cultivated meat allows consumers to enjoy the culinary and sensory qualities of the meat they have always loved, but produced sustainably and without slaughter.
To enter the kosher and halal markets, cultivated meat needs to comply with specific standards and requirements, including how the product has been produced and where it originates.
Because the laws are very specific around how meat is produced, processed, and prepared, cultured meat poses an important question: can it be considered kosher or halal?
Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms (left) and Matan Choufan, Director of Content at Asif (right), a cultural center in Tel Aviv with a library, farm, gallery & cafe that encourages open discourse around local foodways & identity. Photo by Ariel Efron.
Defining kosher and halal food
Kosher and halal describe what is “fit and proper” to eat for Jewish and Muslim people, respectively.
There are a number of guidelines and rules around kosher and halal food preparation and consumption practices, specifically around meat. In fact, meat that is considered kosher (kosher slaughter) is also considered halal, but not vice versa.
First, there are two signs to determine if land animals are kosher: cloven hooves (does the animal have split hooves?) and if it is a ruminant (does the animal chew its cud?). Kosher law also forbids the consumption of any aquatic animal that does not have both scales and fins.
According to kosher law, meat must be slaughtered in a kosher manner, and it’s also forbidden to eat a limb torn or cut from a living animal. In addition, kosher law forbids combining meat and dairy, and consuming blood, the sciatic nerve, and specific animal fats are prohibited as well.
Defining cultivated meat as kosher or halal
Jewish law permits the consumption of certain animal species (such as cows, sheep, goats or chicken) and prohibits the flesh of others (such as pigs or camels). Flesh removed from any live animal including kosher species, is not permitted.
Some rabbinic authorities contend that the criteria of slaughter should be met in order for cultivated meat to be considered as kosher. Others argue that specific types of starter cells are not included in the prohibition. If the product is considered kosher, it becomes subject to the limitation of consuming it together with dairy. There are some who claim that under certain circumstances cultivated meat can be considered both kosher and pareve (edible foods that don’t contain meat).
It should be noted that according to the Jewish law, consuming blood is prohibited and thus slaughtered meat must be “salted” to remove the blood. This is not relevant to our case since the production of our cultivated meat doesn’t require fetal bovine serum (FBS).
One of the most defining considerations for kosher certification is where the starter cells originated from. If the starter cells originated from a live animal, or an animal that was not slaughtered in a kosher manner, the acceptability is much less clear because these cells might fall into the prohibition on consuming flesh from a live animal. However, it is probable that if starter cells can be isolated from a kosher-slaughtered animal, the end product can be certified as kosher.
To summarize, the decision-making process for kosher and halal certifications is well underway. It requires a careful analysis of the exact production methods of the final product. Religious authorities have been analyzing this complex and unprecedented issue in consultation with Aleph Farms since the very early stages in order to arrive at a final ruling. We look forward to keeping you up to date on our progress.