Is lab grown meat kosher?
FOR TO BE ACCEPTED, it seemed like everyone was going vegan. In March 2022 almost half of Britons surveyed by pollster Ipsos said they intended to eat less animal products. But amid high prices and concerns about highly processed food, the industry is proving to be more sizzle than steak. In June Meatless Farm, a plant-based company, went into administration. Demand for rehydrated textured pea protein patties has increased. “Meat alternatives don’t taste good enough,” says Max Jamilly, co-founder of startup Hoxton Farms.
The “magic ingredient” is fat: the stuff that makes meat sputter, crisp and brown. So Mr. Jamilly’s startup company aimed to create a laboratory version. In a trendy office block in East London, his engineers grow stem cells in a broth of plant-based food. To reproduce the warm pig’s stomach, the cells are grown in cultivators, similar to fermenters for brewing beer. As a result, animal fat without the carcass (or animal suffering), will be sold to other meat companies. The target consumers are carnivores, not vegans. If fewer pigs are reared, that could be good for the planet: more than three quarters of the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock.
Would anyone feed pigs on fat grown in a lab? Consumers can first recover from Frankenstein food, versions of which are allowed, for now, only in America and Singapore. But people usually come around to new foods because price is more important than how the sausage is made. As long as farmed meat has to be produced with medical grade equipment it will be expensive. Once the rules are relaxed prices should drop, as could the displeasure of those they don’t know. Ten years ago Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, revealed a $330,000 burger grown in a laboratory, made of muscle and fat. He will be bringing his products to market soon, and he has even convinced a rabbi in New York to say that farmed pigs could be kosher.
To succeed, the fat industry would have to increase. Hoxton Farms hopes to sell fat by 2025, and increase production from a few kilos now to ten tonnes a year. That’s a small drop in the ocean of fat: global pork production is 115m tonnes a year. One day, however, Shanghai soup dumplings, Swedish meatballs and Filipino generation they could all be made from farmed pork fat. And then, maybe, Hoxton will bring home the lab-grown bacon.■
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