The First Kosher Cheeseburger?

The First Kosher Cheeseburger? | #food #news #science


Okay folks, this might be a tough one to “stomach.” While browsing the New York Times this week, I came across an article that grabbed my attention. It discussed recent developments in “cultured” or “in vitro” meat. Basically, these terms refer to meat that has been grown in petri dishes with the use of animal muscle tissue or stem cells. It’s a lengthy and extremely expensive process (about $350,000 of research went into creating the first prototype), and it hasn’t been perfected yet. The meat is edible, but it doesn’t look like the juicy hamburger we’re accustomed to. The process is still in the early stages of development, and the scientists behind the process claim that this could be the future of meat consumption around the globe.

Science like this always encourages a slew of arguments on both sides. Is it ethical? Is it safe? Is it just too strange to even consider? A study done by the Environmental Science and Technology journal in 2011 found that by creating meat in a laboratory, the use of water, land and energy needed for the traditional raising of livestock would be greatly reduced. As the demand for meat increases right along with the population size, studies like this are becoming more and more necessary. Many would propose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle as a sensible alternative, but the reality is that most humans consume animals. Is engineered meat really the answer?

One commenter on the New York Times website raised the discussion of meat produced by anencephalic animals, or animals genetically engineered to be born without a brain. Among other things, this would render them unable to feel pain, one of the major concerns of animal welfare activists. There is very little information on this subject, but it appears that it would be far less expensive than in vitro meat. It would also be naturally formed rather than being grown in a lab. However, the thought of brainless animals being genetically grown to satisfy our meat cravings conjures up science fiction-like images that make me shudder. I’ll take the rice and beans, thank you.

It’s all certainly “food for thought!” One comment on the New York Times website speculated that cultured meat might lead to the first kosher cheeseburger. I’m not so sure about that– after all, the meat is grown from stem cells that originally belonged to a cow. But the fully formed meat itself would never have been attached to a living creature… what does that mean for the laws of kashrut? Beyond kosher, I am more interested in the ethics of cultured meat. Part of me likes the idea of knowing that no animal was harmed in the creation of my steak. The other part of me gets the willies thinking about meat grown in a petri dish.

How do you feel about it? I would love to hear your input on this controversial topic!

Source: Fountain, Henry. “Engineering the $325,000 In Vitro Burger.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 May 2013. Web. 13 May 2013.

Comments (102)Post a Comment

  1. This is what confuses me about kosher. The cow must be slaughtered using an humane procedure in accordance to the Law. But how about how it was raised and what it was fed. GMO feeds? Wouldn´t GMOs by their very nature be against the natural order? So food made in vitro wouldn´t be kosher would it?

  2. Rabbi´s do not prohibit cheese with fish though so dairy with meat & chicken is not accepted then of course there is some variation between Sephardic and Askenazic Jews. Sephardic do mix dairy with chicken if i remember right.

  3. I find the whole idea revolting. It is promulgated by those who feel humans are harming the environment, the NY Times being an advocate. Live and let live.

  4. I don´t eat the charred flesh of warm-blooded mammals …. period! So point is really moot. Once in a while I make a mean lentil/bean patty. But, still try to avoid imitation animal product. The smell and sight of mammal flesh all ripped up, gives me the heebie-jeebies. I sure like your veggie recipes ….!

  5. Hell no! We already have to deal with Monsanto-food and the likes everywhere, we do not need “in vitro meat” on top – kosher or non kosher. The expression alone sounds disgusting to me.

  6. Meat grown in a lab is insane, to me. But most of what “the world” is doing these days is insane, in my opinion. Will cattle farmers be lab workers? Who is greater, the human or the cow?

  7. I think humans should only create life as God intended – not genetically. That people have engineered animals without brains…what’s next? Stepford burgers…no thanks!

    1. So you know what intended?
      Fact: the world would be starved if it weren’t for mankind’s progress in agriculture, much of which came from Israel.

  8. Unlike mainstream Judaism, Karaites do not view the ancient teachings as law but as guidance in interpreting the Torah. Therefore the laws are interpreted less broadly.
    For more mainstream Judaism I would recommend looking into vegan cheeses, margarine and into Almond milk to make dishes kosher.

  9. Tori,
    I think this is a really interesting question. Thank you for bringing it up. I am honestly a bit offended by some of the responses on here. I understand that things created in a lab might creep people out, but is a child who is born through in-vitro fertilization technologies not a real human? Are the organs that researchers are learning to grow in labs from stem cells any less important and life saving than organs harvested from donors?
    I don’t know how I feel about lab grown meat, but I’m sure it could have some merits. I am not a kashrut authority so I won’t weight in there, but I wish people were a little bit more sensitive before making knee-jerk responses along the lines of lab developed= disgusting, icky, and something to stay away from.

    1. Agreed, Sara. It does seem like the internet opens a floodgate for people to say whatever they feel without any kind of sensor. This has positives and negatives. I was speaking to a friend about the issue yesterday… I’ve noticed comment threads becoming more and more negative across the web. Manners have left the building, so to speak. I’m happy that people feel comfortable to express their true feelings here, though, and I think that some of the knee-jerk reactions you see here are due to the concept of lab-grown meat being so foreign to us. It’s all a bit “science fiction.” The unknown can seem scary and strange at first. I also think you make an excellent point about in vitro fertilization and lab-grown organs– those ideas certainly don’t seem to creep people out in the same way. Food for thought!

  10. There is also zero chance of anyone eating anything that isn’t a hybrid, that is, genetically modified.

  11. It seems to me that if you have to have a Cheeseburger, using vegetable based cheeses would work. I don’t know about Petri dishes but it seems to me, meat is meat and dairy is dairy.

  12. This is so wrong,what happened to just eating clean food?!?
    No GM, food from real animals that have fields to run in and sunshine on there backs,veg grown in the back garden
    GOOD OLD FASHION FOOD!!!!!!! And it’s good for ya!!!!! :)

  13. Interesting what people find unappealing. Chicken eggs? Okay.
    Calves brains? Nope. Cow leg? Okay. Thymus? Nope.
    Etc. For me, real foodies experiment with everything worldwide. I must admit that in all my travels I have skipped one item….the Philippine balot…..fertile egg with embryo.
    I guess a guy has to draw the line somewhere! Wait, I skipped lutefisk! Swedish fish preserved in lye; the smell did me in!
    Okay, I skipped two things.

    1. Impressive Richard! Haha I’ve been pretty adventurous in my day as well. Several years ago I tried a sea urchin fresh off the boat at the Tokyo fish market. It was kind of sweet and salty. Not bad. Definitely not kosher. :)

  14. We tried urchin right out of the ocean in a little bay off of New Zealand. Fantastic! Same with their famous mussels (not kosher, either.)

  15. While we’re talking trafe, the best oysters ever were pulled up from an oyster farm in Hiroshima Bay and eaten in the moment. Like with vegetables, nothing beats fresh!

  16. Disgusting is disgusting!
    I try not to eat meat and after this article…..yukkie 0-(
    G-d created in six days and then rested 0-)
    Mankind created this hamburger thing and then we all get sick 0-(

  17. Pile a flavored Parve frozen cooked veggie burger (Morningstar Farms?) with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, sauce and your favorite cheese….Viola! You have a kosher cheeseburger! Better and healthier than a Big Mac or Whopper…..

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