The Union of Orthodox Rabbis (OU), the world’s largest organization for certifying food as kosher, announced on Wednesday that it granted certification to SuperMeat, an Israeli startup company working to develop a “meal-ready” chicken cultured meat product created through the use of cell culture.

“This step represents our commitment to inclusivity and respect for diverse dietary needs, making our cultivated chicken meat accessible to audiences around the world,” Ido Savir, CEO of SuperMeat, said in a statement. “We believe this historic initiative with the Orthodox Union not only broadens the options for kosher consumers worldwide but will also set clear guidelines for other companies in the cultivated meat industry seeking kosher certification, opening new avenues for the Kosher food industry.”

The kosher seal of approval came after SuperMeat hosted two rabbinic delegations, and kosher authorities held a series of conversations on Jewish law surrounding the science used in the company’s technology, the Times of Israel reported.

Lab-grown meat is an alternative many vegetarians and vegans embrace as it is humane and does not require raising the animal in unnatural conditions or its subsequent slaughter. Proponents also claim the production of lab-grown meat is more eco-friendly, less impacting the environment than raising animals. Livestock production generates 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

SuperMeat’s process takes chicken cells from a fertilized egg and plants them in a meat fermenter, providing the cells with warmth, oxygen, and nourishment with a plant-based liquid. The cells mature into meat tissue as they would in a chicken’s body. The meat grows rapidly, with its mass doubling in a matter of hours, the company says. When the meat is ready, it is harvested from the fermenter by removing the liquid feed.

The new branch of food technology is presenting a wide range of questions for Torah-observant Jews: Is it really meat?  Can it be considered kosher since it doesn’t have the traditional signs of a kosher animal (hooves, chewing cud, feathers, scales, fins)? If so, can it be kosher since it cannot be slaughtered in the way described by the Torah (shechita)? Is meat grown from pig stem cells kosher? Is taking the stem cells from a living animal considered ever min hachai, ripping a limb from a living creature, which is forbidden to Jews and non-Jews, according to the seven Noahide laws?

At least some of these questions were answered in January when Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau released a ruling that lab-grown meat is kosher and that it can be served with dairy products. His ruling came in response to an inquiry by Aleph Farms,  a cultivated meat company located in Rehovot.

“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 [Jewish law] would categorize it as kosher pareve; as a vegetable product.”

Halacha forbids the consumption of dairy products with meat, including poultry. This is derived from the Torah stating three times, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21).

However, the recent announcement by the OU stipulated that it is a kosher meat product that can’t be eaten with dairy products. This raises yet another question for the rabbis: If this is a meat product, can it be offered as an animal offering in the Third Temple?

Rabbi Moshe Avraham Halperin of the Machon Mada’i Technology Al Pi Halacha (the Institute for Science and Technology According to Jewish Law) was clear on the subject.

“Lab-grown or cultured meat can absolutely not be offered as an animal sacrifice,” Rabbi Halperin told Israel365 News. “Temple sacrifices required the slaughtering of an animal. IN this case, there is no animal and there is no ritual slaughtering. Even though it is meat, there is no blood and many of the sacrifices require the sprinkling of blood on the altar. A piece of lab-grown meat was never alive.”

“Classifying it as meat is a stringency, not a general classification of cultured meat as an animal,” Rabbi Halpering said. “But the science of genetics will present more challenges to halacha in the future, such as cloned animals or new species.”

Rabbi Menachem Makover of the Temple Institute agreed, emphasizing the spiritual significance of sacrificing an animal.

“After the flood, meat became the focus of our animal appetite. Bringing an animal to the Temple is the way to fix our animal nature, the animal side of our soul,” Rabbi Makover said. “The entire process of bringing an animal to the Temple, an animal that took great effort to raise, and then coming into personal contact with it before watching it be slaughtered and its blood sprinkled on the altar, all this is to involve the individual as part of his tikkun (fixing). It is transformational and transcendent. God doesn’t eat meat. The sacrifice is not to provide meat for God.”

“For 2,000 years, the world has existed without a Temple and look where we are today,” Rabbi Makover said. “Western culture is entirely given over to its animal nature. Men deny their own soul, deny how their actions should be sanctifying God’s name in the world. Men deny that God created them, that who they are in the world is determined by God. The intimacy with death reminds man who we are and who created us. Faced with this, God is undeniable.”

Rabbi Makover referred to a teaching by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine who was hugely influential in Jewish thought of the 20th century. Rabbi Kook’s views on the Temple service as expressed in Olat Re’iyah seem to indicate that only grain offerings will be offered in the reinstated Temple service.

“Rav Kook’s vision of a vegan Temple is prophetic,” Rabbi Makover said. “When we return to the Temple service, may it be soon, we return to bringing animal sacrifices. This is even more needed today than it was in the days when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. The Third Temple will raise us up to the level where our animal nature will no longer need fixing. At that point, the Temple service will become vegan.”

Some rabbis suggest that the basis for lab-grown meat was described in the Talmud. In tractate Sanhedrin 59b, the rabbis discuss “meat that descended from heaven”.

They tell of Rabbi Shimeon ben Chalafta, who was walking on the road when lions came and roared at him. He quoted, “The young lions roar for prey and beg their food from God” (Psalms 104:21), and two lumps of meat fell from heaven. The lions ate one and left the other. Rabbi ben Chalafta brought a piece of this meat to the study hall and asked: Is this fit to eat or not? The scholar answered: “Nothing unfit descends from heaven.” Rabbi Zera asked Rabbi Abbahu: “What if something in the shape of a donkey were to descend?” He replied: “You howling bird, did they not say that no unfit thing descends from heaven?”

The same tractate, on page 65b, deals with a similar issue, reading: “Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Oshaia would spend every Sabbath eve studying the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation, one of the early books of Kabbalah) by means of which they created a calf and ate it.”

Rabbi Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz, a 16th-century rabbinic authority, ruled that meat created in an unnatural manner, such as by Kabbalistic methods,  is not considered a real animal and does not need ritual slaughtering. Malbim, a 19th-century Torah scholar,  commented that meat created this way is not considered meat and can be eaten with milk. He suggested that this is the type of meat Abraham offered the angels (Genesis 17:7-8), and was, therefore, able to serve them milk simultaneously.


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