Chief Rabbi: Cultured meat is considered a vegetable but can't be consumed with dairy

Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau has decided to allow those keeping kosher to eat cultured meat and claimed that it is like eating a vegetable.

Bacon cheeseburger (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Bacon cheeseburger
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Will Jews who observe the laws of kashrut be able to eat a cultured-meat cheeseburger? It depends on which rabbi you ask.

According to Israel Chief Rabbi David Lau, cultured meat is considered to be parve (non-dairy and non-meat), but it should not be sold with dairy products so that the public does “not to get used to eating dairy and meat products together,” which is forbidden according to Halacha.

Lau has ruled that it is permissible to eat cultured meat, saying it is like eating a vegetable.

In response to a request sent to him by Aleph Farms, an Israeli company that makes cultured meat, Lau on Wednesday wrote a detailed halachic decision regarding its kashrut and halachic definition.

“As long as cultured meat is defined and marketed as a vegetable product [that is] similar to meat, and there is supervision over the rest of its ingredients, then the Halacha would categorize it as kosher parve; as a vegetable product,” he wrote.


Can kosher cultured meat be marketed with dairy products?

If the cultured meat is marketed as a meat product, however, “and in particular if its shape will be similar to meat in taste and smell,” there is room to “treat this cultured meat as stricter and define it as kosher, but not parve, for the purpose of mixing it, cooking it and eating it with dairy products,” he added.

Lau said it should be forbidden to market kosher cultured meat with dairy products, “because this may cause [observant Jews] to sin.”

"Aleph Farms is the brainchild of the beloved heritage food company, Strauss Group, top research university, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and veteran CEO, food engineer and biologist, Didier Toubia."

Aleph Farms

According to its website, “Aleph Farms is the brainchild of the beloved heritage food company, Strauss Group, top research university, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and veteran CEO, food engineer and biologist Didier Toubia.”

It was founded in 2017 “by this group of food experts, parents, nature lovers and scientists. We’re humbly united in our mission to feed the world and preserve the planet,” the Aleph Farms website says.

Two members of the advisory board of Aleph Farms are actor Leonardo DiCaprio and retired NASA astronaut Karen Nydberg. DiCaprio was quoted as saying, “Aleph’s extraordinary technology platform combined with their inclusive approach to bringing about systemic change in our food systems make them a leader in this field. With their one-of-a-kind cultivated steaks, they demonstrate how creativity and ingenuity can help solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges.”

What is cultivated meat?

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 really an alternative current production process for meat. It allows consumers to enjoy the culinary and sensory qualities of the meat they have always loved, but produced sustainably and without slaughter.

Other rabbis have recently said it is permitted to eat cultured meat with cheese. A ruling to that effect was signed by Rabbi Ze’ev Whitman, of Israeli dairy giant Tnuva; and Rabbi Oren Duvdevani, head of the Tzohar rabbinical organization’s kashrut branch; as well as Rabbis David Stav, Yuval Cherlow, Aharon Katz, Moshe Bigel and others, “all of whom agreed that the new method of producing meat altered the final product’s kashrut status,” Israel Hayom reported last year.