Is in-vitro meat kosher?

ylove passed on a link to a fascinating article about the future of in-vitro meat, that is, meat grown in a test-tube:

It starts with cells—it could be a stem cell or something called a myoblast, a precursor to muscle. You proliferate these cells in a kind of nutritious soup that’s filled with vitamins and amino acids and salts and sugar. This is the biochemical equivalent of blood. In order for the cells to grow into tissues, they need this medium. And, it turns out, the most promising approach to producing this medium is to use microalgae, which are photosynthetic organisms even more efficient than plants. We recently funded some research at Oxford University to examine how meat cultured with this medium compares to conventional meat in terms of energy impact, and the study showed that it uses 90 percent less land and water, all while producing 80 percent fewer greenhouse emissions.

Development is being spearheaded by a non-profit whose goal is reducing the resource footprint of the world’s appetite for meat.

Growing hamburgers in vats solves some halachic problems: No tzaar baalei hayim, cruelty to animals, as in endemic in contemporary factory farming. No need to hire rabbis to oversee the slaughter.

But it raises other questions.

Does meat cloned from a cow’s stem cell count as ever min hachai — meat (ultimately) from a live animal, which is prohibited to be eaten? Can a tissue culture be said to chew its cud if it has no cud, or to have cloven hoofs if it has no hooves? Could it conceivable be parve and permitted to be served with milk?

Ten years from now, McDonald’s may boast that its serves low-carbon, cruelty-free in vitro burgers. As Jews, should we eat them?

6 Responses to “Is in-vitro meat kosher?”

  1. I don’t see why not. A cow stem cell is not food, and if it grows into something that is food, it’s not a cow.

    Amit · September 3rd, 2009 at 7:59 am
  2. I’d eat in-vitro meat in a heartbeat.

    Most meat, eggs, and dairy products come from animals raised on factory farms. These animals are intensively confined and have their beaks sliced off, their ears notched, and tails cut off – all without painkiller. To put it simply, their lives are filled with suffering.

    In-vitro meat will make this world a more humane place. As Jews taught to be merciful and compassionate to others, this is an idea we should fully support.

    josh · September 3rd, 2009 at 9:46 am
  3. It’s an interesting theoretical debate. Generally the people who make decisions on kashrus end up erring on the side of extreme caution. Test-tube meat will probably be ossur out of an abundance of chumra.

    Jordan · September 3rd, 2009 at 12:30 pm
  4. Playing God

    William Levin · September 6th, 2009 at 8:54 pm
  5. If in the future the whole world will go in this direction and yet orthodox jews will insist on slaughtering living animals for meat, then this may create a huge image problem for orthodox judaism.

    eli · September 13th, 2009 at 6:26 am
  6. I’m not a leftist who believes that slaughtering animals for meat and leather is wrong, but I am all for in vitro meat. it will make meat cheaper, and possibly parve? anyway if we can GROW meat, instead of slaughter cows for it, milk and cheese will become cheaper too!

    Tal Zamir · September 1st, 2011 at 1:30 pm

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