Marie Antoinette would be surprised with our adaptation of her famous words. So be it.
News has it that “pig’s meat” will be kosher soon. We’re talking about muscle cells and intercellular fibers that are grown in a lab from a pig’s cell. How kosher can that be? (The rabbi quoted already questions if it will be but the heading says that it will.) NB: Meat from a cloned pig would definitely unkosher, as a cloned pig is still an unkosher animal.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong in Jewish Law with consuming meat of pigs. It is only wrong for Jews because the Torah says so. And no – it’s not “one of Judaism’s strongest prohibitions,” as this news report has it. Religious standards are not made by the fact that totally irreligious Jews abhor it. Eating insects (in lettuce) is many times more forbidden and sexual sins many more than that. Here are some kashrut objections:
1. The leading rabbi has a point but, as he intimates, it will be disputed. The precedent is for me, usage of electrical equipment on Shabbat. Leading rabbis claiming that switching electricity on and off causes a kind of fire, builds or destroys an electric circuit, etc. forbid it on Shabbat under just lame excuses. (Texting from a battery operated device is even less problematic.)
Truth is that electrical appliances (that don’t make noise – yet another problem) could be used but are forbidden on Shabbat (except in case of possible mortal danger) because using them would ruin the Shabbat atmosphere of being together and enjoying life as it is. Permission to use a car (within a city) would also stop Jews living close to their synagogues.
In the same vein, technically, possibly not-forbidden artificial meat (pig or cow or any) should be declared non-kosher, because it would lower the threshold to certainly non-kosher meats.
2. The idea is debatable that the cell from which the lab meat is grown had lost its status as meaty and as limb taken from a life animal (a Jewish prohibition for all of humanity). We see the same with gelatin. Dry bones from non-kosher animal corpses have lost their meaty status. But as soon as they are made into food, they regain it, according to many rabbinic authorities. That’s derived from the idea that leavened grains that became inedible are allowed for Pesach, but when they are made into food they regain their leavened forbidden status.
The criteria for kosher are not the molecules, but rather the behavior of it (flies, walks, crawls) and some outer characteristics. If it looks like meat, it should be meat, and if it is taken from a life animal, it should be forbidden.
This might be different if the kosher animal first was slaughtered in the proper Jewish way and then the cell was taken from it. (We know that not all cells die immediately upon brain death of the organism.)
3. Much more important, though, is that anything unethical should be unkosher. Lab meat is much too expensive for the wallet and the environment.
It could be considered non-meaty and non-milchic (“parve”) but kosher should not only be about strict dietary laws. Giraffe meat would be kosher too, but no Jew will eat it. It’s clearly immoral to kill such an animal for food and much too expensive.
While Jewish Law encourages and obligates to enjoy life, that must always be within very strict rules, and not wasting is one of them.
4. Maybe one could say that such a small part of a pig or other animal is unsubstantial? Well, Jewish Law can often declare a very small amount mixed in as negligible, but here there is no mixture.
5. But maybe we could argue that anything microscopic does not exist for the Dietary Laws. Very small eggs, invisible to the naked eye, are so kosher. But when they develop into visible insects, these are not.
6. And food should be tasty and support health. As we know, meat is tasteless (it needs spices and souses to get any taste, and it’s baking is dangerous for health (compare burning cigarettes). Eating artificial meat is dangerous to health, and should not be kosher for that reason.
I’m looking forward to rabbis knowledgeable in health and diet, who will forbid white sugar, flour and rice produce, and meat and alcohol more than a drop – because it conflicts with the Torah Commandment to choose life. (Cigarette smoking once was considered kosher because people enjoyed it. Now we know better, it’s totally forbidden.)
7. As a vegan, I will not eat artificial meat. It reminds too much of foods I don’t want to eat and is a waste of money and ecology.
The claim that electronic cigarettes would not be as bad as those that use fire are fake too. Many electronic smokers go from them to a burning-cigarette addiction, and also the electronic ones are addictive and bad for health, as I explained before and here. Similarly, “non-animal-suffering” meat should be out too.
In summary, lab meat is a gimmick and should not be eaten by anyone, but especially not by Jews keeping kosher.