Indeed! The new meat that is now being readied to be available in another two years doesn’t make me jump up and down from happiness. And that’s not because soon everyone can be a vegan without any effort and there go all the people who praised me for being vegan and special. Believe me. (When in their ad video the Israeli CEO with a French accent talks about eating cats he means [meat] cuts, according to the subtitles. His “treedy” means 3D. Israelis think that it is charming (or even correct) to speak English like that and not an embarrassment of their product. He advocates to “grow proteins from plants” apparently not knowing that one can just eat plants that have protein in order to get protein inside.)
There are pros and cons with this new meat and some serious problems for Jewish Law too. I will gladly give an overview on condition that you don’t stop reading or quoting me at the end of the few positive aspects.
The New Artificial Meat – Pros
- Every animal less bred means very much less damage to the planet (less (rain)forest or farmland taken away for pasturing, fewer greenhouse winds), less waste and less animal suffering. (Only a tiny amount of vegetarians have a philosophical problem will killing animals even if it happens painlessly and stress-free. Problems with kosher slaughter often lie not in the method but in the mass production setting. Therefore, to pretend that not killing animals will make vegetarians happy is a gross exaggeration.)
- The meat would have no antibiotics or bovine microbes and hopefully also no excessive hormones or preservatives.
The New Artificial Meat – Cons
- Meat is a non-food. It has protein (but only 15% of the protein the animal was fed) and iron (except kosher meat) and vitamin B12 but for the rest, it’s really not much better than sugar or white flower. It has no taste and needs to be heavily spiced and burned (seared) to give it some taste, which procedures are bad for health too. Why in the world would we need a fake non-food?! It’s like making fake tobacco or fake heroin. (Or, as I wrote before, pushing e-cigarettes instead of promotion to quit smoking.) If iron and B12 are important, then add them to real food instead of to artificial culinary boredom.
- We don’t get to hear too much about how they produce this fake meat (what we are told is total nonsense, probably to mislead the competition, that they brew this meat) but it seems to me that it must be an enormously wasteful process (at least in terms of sterility, water and electricity use: bad for the environment), though maybe less so than in the bio industry. By comparing it to meat production, any creation must sound idyllic, but relative to growing veggies, it’s still wasteful. Eat some lentils instead. Or mushrooms that only need manure as food and not controlled “fermentation” tanks.
- This production process seems very susceptible to bacteria and funguses that are dangerous for humans, like most animal produce. But here even more so because it’s cultured outside a life animals, outside a working immune system.
- Meat and other animal produce are way too expensive for the nutritious value they give (not to speak of the health and environmental damage they do). Even when the price of artificial meat gets closer to that of animal meat, it’s still exorbitant.
- Consuming fake meat keeps the habit of eating meat (and other animal produce and non-foods) alive (pun intended) and normative. Even if eating meat would not be a problem at all for some people, the overconsumption and the fixation on meat (56 billion animals are presently globally slaughtered for food every year) is definitely problematic for any principled person. Rather than reducing this idiocy by a trifle, fake meat will legitimize it.
- Focusing on cutting (pun intended) meat consumption hides (pun intended) that milk cows often have a worse life than meat cows. The latter are normally allowed to roam (because that develops their muscles, what carnivores call meat) while their unfortunate milked-dry sisters are frequently jailed for life.
- The CEO talks about a “protein crisis” that we must “solve” but there is no such animal (pun intended). There is plenty of protein in the world but it is reduced by a factor 7 by first feeding it to animals and only then eating the poor beasts.
- The argument that fake meat could be healthier meat because the amount of fat could be reduced is like saying that less-refined sugar is better than refined sugar. The difference is negligible. Alcoholics suffer most (in the first decades) from not having bread vitamins in their diet. The idea of adding those to strong drinks was rejected by the specialists because soon people would claim that drinking alcohol was actually advantageous and healthy because of having vitamins in them. Here same thing.
- This promotes also the use of commercially available fake milk products which generally only taste milky but have no nutritious value and are way too expensive also. What is rather needed is to go off the white (pasta, rice, meat, flour, milk) tasteless non-foods and switch to real varied nutritious healthy tasty satisfying foods.
The New Artificial Meat – Jewish Problems
(I only have rudimentary Jewish knowledge so don’t read this as a learned rabbinic text!)
- If this food was indispensable, for instance, very nutritious and cheap, then the rabbis could maybe find shortcuts to allow for it but this is not the case. It is expensive unhealthy nonsense that no one needs. And the problems for Jewish Law seem not small.
- If it is meaty because it was grown from cells that were in meat, its consumption could be a violation against eating a limb from a living animal. This is even forbidden to Gentiles, the rabbis teach. This is a much more serious problem than if it is meaty or not. One could say that a few cells do not constitute meat. But we see the same thing with gelatin. Most rabbis hold, gelatin is collagen from cooked bones that became as dried and lifeless as tree branches, but others rule that if it became edible again, it resumes its previous status: meaty and it should be from a kosher animal that was properly slaughtered and the bones should be properly salted. If the cells were harvested from a placenta, it might be that they don’t have the status of taken from a living animal or animal at all (though, like eggs (and milk), it should be from a kosher animal). If they are taken from animal blood, we have the serious prohibition for Jews against consuming any blood.
- If rabbis would rule that it lost its animal status for good, then why would the animal source have to be kosher? Not to get Jews used to the taste of non-kosher animals? Would eating artificial human flesh then also allowed? How about eating (fake) milk and (fake) meat together (it need one or both to be fake)? Soon kosher-style food will still be non-kosher but there should be treif-style food that is kosher? Really? Do we need “kosher caviar” and kosher cheeseburgers? I don’t think so. That is an excellent precedent not to have artificial meat in the first place: Not to have people continue to eat non-foods but to move to real and tasty foods.
- Would this fake meat still need the removal of the circulating fluid (artificial blood) that fed it and salting? If it doesn’t, wouldn’t that lead to Jews being un-careful about not eating un-kashered meat?
Conclusion: We need to move a big part of our consumption away from animal produce health-hazardous foods. Artificial meat will not help here.
Methadone is a substance similar to heroin but less addictive (they claim) so it is sometimes used to get people off of heroin other than cold turkey (pardon the pun). Artificial meat could be used the same way for meat addicts but it should only be available on doctor’s prescription and for limited time.