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Mysticism in the laboratory—the making of high-tech kosher and halal meat

Silicon Valley wrestles with religion.
AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Silicon Valley wrestles with religion.
  • Chase Purdy
By Chase Purdy

Food Reporter

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Food is imbued with culture. So as the cell-cultured meat industry evolves, it will have to somehow meld to and meet our expectations of how we use meat. Grown without bones, how will this new form of food conform to the needs of people who love barbecue or whole branzino? Will the cuts one day be the same as current-day porterhouse steaks and chicken breasts?

Perhaps no cultural question is more intriguing than whether cell-cultured beef, chicken, and pork will be considered kosher or halal. Religious guidelines are very specific about ensuring an animal is properly killed for consumption, so meat that circumvents the slaughtering process altogether turns those rules upside-down.

For the religious authorities who make such calls, the answers aren’t so easy to come by. The thought experiment of lab-grown meat—no longer so experimental—has sparked debate around texts several hundred years old. Whatever position rabbis and imams wind up staking, there’s a lot of money at play. The global kosher market is estimated to be worth more than $24 billion, a figure that is dwarfed by the halal market, valued at $1.6 trillion.

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