Cultivated meat is kosher, Israel’s Chief Rabbi declares

Meat grown from cow cells is kosher, Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau declares
A chef cooks lab-grown steak produced from cow cells by Israeli company Aleph Farms, Rehovot, Israel, credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau this week said that Aleph Farms’ cultivated meat is kosher, which means Jews are allowed to consume it. Cultivated meat is real animal meat that is produced by growing animal cells. 

This production method eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food, reducing the environmental impact of animal farming and growing concern about animal cruelty at factory farms.

But the method has raised questions over religious regulations, like whether the meat is still kosher for Jews or halal for Muslims. Lau weighed in on the discussion for the first time, telling the Israeli-based Aleph Farms that the cultivated thin-cut steaks the company hopes to start selling this year are indeed kosher.

Aleph Farms collects sample cells from a living animal and then grows more in a cultivator that simulates conditions in the animal’s body. This is different from popular plant-based alternatives that do not originate from animals.

Lau told Aleph Farms that their products fall into the category of ‘parve’, which is kosher food that does not contain meat or dairy. While the decision was tailored to Aleph Farm’s process, it sets a precedent for other companies producing cultivated meat. A spokesperson for Lau said they’ve received similar requests from several other companies.

“This ruling is meaningful not only for Aleph Farms as a company but also for the entire cultivated meat sector. It sets a foundation for an inclusive public discourse about the intersection of tradition and innovation in our society,” Aleph Farms said in a statement.

The company said it’s also in contact with Muslim, Hindu and other religious authorities about certifying its products as suitable dietary options.

Aleph Farms hopes to start selling its cultured thin-cut steaks to restaurants in Israel and Singapore this year. 

It is working on approval from the United States Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sell its products next year. In 2021, actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined the company as an advisory board member.

   

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